WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A Waterbury family who lost their teenage son in September 2021 is holding a holiday toy drive in his memory.

Angel Velez was 14 years old when he was stabbed to death on Colonial Avenue. Despite the devasting loss, his family tries to move forward by focusing on helping others.

“Without Angel, it’s been hard,” his mom, Darlene Morales said. “It’s a rollercoaster.”

Their holiday toy drive in Waterbury shows the importance of giving back, even in the darkest times.

“They need to be role models to children, and friends, and see how they can help,” Morales said.

Those who wish to participate can drop off unwrapped toys and school supplies at 179 Roseland Ave. or 1443 Thomaston Ave. in Waterbury through Dec. 9. Toys are collected Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The family says Children and Adolescent Healthcare is a place they’ve all spent a lot of time over the years, including Angel.

“Angel was recently here when he passed,” Morales said. “The first thought for a great location for drop off, a great outcome.”

Velez was killed on Sept. 29, 2001, just days before his 15th birthday. His family says he was a big-time PlayStation gamer and basketball player in school.

“He was a good student, class clown, I got many phone calls,” Morales said with a laugh. “Class clown, but that was him. He was just a kid.”

He was a funny kid that had a strong bond with his sisters.

“He was a jokester,” Arianna Morales told News 8. “He was just always happy, active, outside with his friends.”

Last year’s toy drive benefitted more than 50 local families in need. This year, Velez’s family hopes more Waterbury children wake up Christmas morning with a present.

“I think he’d want me to do what we’re doing here, like bring joy to people in need,” Arianna said.

“His presence is very missed, his light,” Morales said. “The family will continue to grow together and get stronger.”