A new toy can often be a source of Christmas joy for a child. For a child battling cancer, it can mean the world.
For four years Anna O’Connor, now age 12, along with her sisters, Amanda, 10, and Alyssa, 17 age, and her mom, have been gathering piles of toys each holiday season to bring Christmas to those children.
Mom Debbie O’Connor explains, “Our daughter Anna was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. One year around Christmas time, we were leaving the hospital and she was concerned that her friends upstairs and the other children would not be getting a visit from Santa Claus. It was a heartbreaking reality that they were not going home for Christmas.”
Anna was not ready to leave it at that. “We talked about it on the ride back. We needed to make sure the children on Med 4 (the children’s cancer ward at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center) got toys for Christmas. When we got home we posted on Facebook and the response and help we got was amazing.”
Each year that response has gotten bigger and bigger. “Last year we collected 692 brand new toys,” O’Connor said. “The toys go to (the hospital’s) Hematology/Oncology Department and we also give to the Ronald McDonald House next door because we collect so much!”
Those wishing to help can donate new unwrapped toys for a boy or girl of any age, or a stuffed animal, up to Saturday, December 17. They can be left in a box on the O’Connor residence front porch at 35 West 10th Road in Broad Channel. Or you can bring them to the Grassy Point Bar and Grill, 18-02 Cross Bay Boulevard, any time on Friday, December 9, and “get a free drink for your kindness.” Debbie O’Connor will personally be there from 7 p.m. on.
BC’s Ruffle Bar sponsored a toy drive event on Saturday, November 29. Thanks to Joann Heaphy, instead of doing a grab bag North Channel Yacht Club members will be donating to the toy drive. The Broad Channel Athletic Club will also be collecting toys, even at the community tree lighting at their field on Sunday, December 11.
“Anna and Amanda get excited when people stop by,” O’Connor said. “We count every gift, write their names in a book, and include every person's name in a personal card on the day of delivery. It's special, because we know how it feels.”
“My husband, Shawn, and I are really blessed. We’ve got good, kind children who would help anyone that needed it. Their hearts are big and every year they work hard.”
Currently the O’Connor home is looking more and more like San ta’s workshop, as toys are piled and separated. Boxes of trucks and cars, bags of toys and all kinds of new playthings continue to arrive regularly. One little boy, Thomas, even offered his beloved stuffed animals to give to the children in need, and offered to give his own money to buy them toys.
Meanwhile the O’Connors are also thankful for their own gifts.
“Our daughter will be five years in remission this April 2017. This year is special. This five year mark is something we have heard about for a long time in the cancer world. Five year remission is big. So, God has given my family the only gift that matters-healthy children.”
Debbie O’Connor notes, “My children, Shawn and I have walked this path that these children and families (battling with cancer) have to now. And it is not fun, especially during the holidays.
If we can make them happy even for a day, it was worth it.”
And a donated toy for a child this Christmas can make all the difference in the world.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS