I feel I was called to organize toy drives after I found myself in the hospital on Christmas at age four. In 2009, I became very sick and was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital on Christmas night.
The next day, a Child Life representative greeted me with a large gift bag filled with toys. My mom thanked her but said that I had already received my Christmas presents. The Child Life team explained that no child should be in the hospital during the holiday season but if they are, they should feel the joy of the holidays while they are here.
From that year on, I was determined to help those hospitalized during the holidays. For the past 10 years, I’ve done a toy drive in my community, asking for donations of new, unwrapped toys. We collected about 20 toys the first year. And it’s grown dramatically every year since, so much so that we donated 4,412 toys last year. I now donate toys to children in several hospitals and organizations throughout Long Island: Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Stony Brook University Hospital, Winthrop Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, the John Theissen Foundation, and Angela’s House. Some of those organizations also keep siblings in mind as well and that is very important to me.
My goal this year is to exceed the number of toys collected and delivered last year, and bring joy to the children that need it most. My isolated incident and hospital stay in 2009 set the tone for me wanting to pay it forward.
My grandfather, my family, as well as my church family encouraged me to use what God has given me to seek out those who need more than others. Whether it’s a hospitalized child, sibling of the child, someone with a chronic or critical illness, or those finding themselves in an emergency situation, I’ll do what I can to help kids feel as comfortable as possible. Being able to play with toys distracts them from the pain that they’re in and helps them feel normal. And I love being able to put my faith into action while bringing a smile to their face.