"What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?” -Roger Bannister
I gasped in disbelief as I gazed upon the enormous mound of toys my team carried into Comer Children’s Hospital at The University of Chicago (Comer). An army of Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund volunteers gathered to help unload two vans, an SUV and a pickup truck filled to the brim with goodies for the kids. In total, we collected over 1,200 games and toys! We were grateful for everything, but especially impressed by some of the big ticket items like the Playstation, the Wii, the Kindle, the Guitar Hero and the two American Girl dolls.
Everyone was beaming with pride knowing that their efforts had resulted in great success. As we stood in the lobby among all the toys, we heard excited shouts from patients and their families as they passed by. “Wow! Look at all the toys!” one boy exclaimed. “Where did they come from?” he thought aloud, as he looked upon them in wonderment.
My heart nearly burst with happiness knowing that there would be a lot more excitement in the days to come, when the parents were invited to browse and select special toys for their children.
Atia sitting on one of the donated pink tricycles!
Onsite Toy Store
One of Comer’s many strengths is its full-family care approach. They are truly in tune with their patients and have a firm grasp on the fact that no one knows these children’s greatest holiday wishes better than their parents.
As a result, every year the Child Life Specialists at Comer create a temporary toy store within the hospital with the goal of providing parents an opportunity to select Christmas gifts tailored to their children’s age and interests. Parents are invited to select items for both the patient and their siblings. Once the “shopping” is complete, volunteers are onsite to offer complimentary gift wrapping services.
From start-to-finish, each detail is carefully considered in the hopes of relieving holiday stress, and spreading Christmas joy, clearly illustrating why Comer’s “child life program has gained a national reputation for excellence.”
On Christmas morning, Santa also visited each child in their hospital room toting a bag of goodies. These gifts are generalized and based on a hospital-wide theme such as, art projects.
The incredible Child Life Specialists at Comer - Atia's was Ms. Jenn (sitting right behind her) & we love her!
Where Did the Toys Come From?
Just like the sweet little boy in the hospital, you may be wondering where the 1,200 toys came from. We are blessed to have so many businesses and individuals to thank.
Punky’s Pizza and Pasta
Our friends and loyal supporters at Punky’s Pizza and Pasta collected nearly 350 toys! A special shout out to the Scarlata and Phillips’ families. Thank you for being a part of our organization since Day 1.
Laborers Local 1001 and Horwitz, Horwitz and Associates
Some of our biggest ticket items came from the generosity of Lou Phillips and the Laborers Local 1001 who donated a Playstation, and Kelly Jensen and Horwitz, Horwitz and Associates who donated a Wii game system. This one brought tears to my eyes. I was so overwhelmed by their kindness.
Howl at the Moon
Lead by the efforts of Traci Buckingham and Roy McFate, Howl at the Moon employees and friends pulled together to purchase nearly $1,000 in toys and games. (My sincerest apologies to Victor Mitchell for cutting him out of this picture, but your hand looks fantastic!).
Hungry? Restaurant and Suburban Locations
Lead by the efforts of Tara Finley of Chicago Cake Pop Factory and a Project Ladybug volunteer, Sam Syreggelas of Hungry? Restaurant and Tami Blackmore of Outback Steakhouse, the suburban drop-off locations collected nearly 70 items, including two children’s learning laptop computers (courtesy of Kathy & Tom Syreggelas).
Suburban locations included: Pump It Up & Fratellos Pizzeria in Elmhurst, Spring Hill Auto Body, Inc. in East Dundee, Outback Steakhouse in Gurnee, Hungry? Restaurant in Rolling Meadows, Hope's Playground in Antioch and VILLA PARK Parks and Recreation.
BBJ Linen & Food For Thought
Lead by Brooke Marino, a Project Ladybug volunteer, BBJ Linen’s Sales Team and Food For Thought collected over 50 items, including one of our big ticket items - a Kindle – perfect for a hospitalized teenager!
Abeille Beauty and Bridal
Lead by Kelly Day, a Project Ladybug volunteer, Abeille’s salon owner, Melissa, Kelly’s husband’s employer, the Conrad Hotel and the Boys and Girls Club collected over 300 toys and games. They even gave us two pink tricycles!
Atia modeling Abeille’s donations
Lead by Weronika Bobula, a Project Ladybug volunteer, Soca Salon employees and friends collected over 50 toys and games!
I was so excited when I peeked into the box at Atia’s dance studio and saw two American Girl doll boxes. I couldn’t help but think of the little girls battling cancer who would receive these precious dolls.
Lakeshore Academy of Artistic Gymnastics and Juko Nail & Skin Rescue
A big thanks to Atia’s gymnastics school and one of the best nail salons in Wicker Park for your efforts, which brought in lots of toys, too.
Grossinger City Autoplex & General Motors
As you can imagine, I needed tons of help with this large haul. I was in a pickle trying to figure out how to get all the toys to Comer. In passing, I mentioned our needs to General Motors and Grossinger City Autoplex, and without hesitation both willingly stepped up and offered a hand. Both companies played a crucial role in the success of Ladybug Love for the Holidays!
General Motors loaned me a beautiful white Chevy Suburban for a week, complete with a full tank of gas. Their generosity was a saving grace because I desperately needed it to pick up all the toys from the various drop-off locations around Chicago. I am so grateful for that Suburban; without it, I wouldn’t have been able to get the job done. Thank you, GM!
Grossinger City Autoplex generously donated a minivan and sent Craig, a kind-hearted, enthusiastic driver. He was an incredibly helpful, and so willing to pitch in and get the vehicles loaded. He was simply wonderful! Thank you so much, Ron, Mike and Craig at Grossinger. You guys are nothing short of amazing!
Our friend, Sam from New Jersey added purpose to her Christmas party when she decided to turn it into a toy drive for Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund. Together with the help of her friends and family, she collected nearly 100 items, including Guitar Hero which she shipped to us!
A special thanks to Sam’s friend, Rachel Albright, who also shipped us a big box of toys!
You may remember a few weeks ago that I wrote about 8 year old Giancarlo who turned his birthday party into a fundraiser. He, his classmates, friends and family collected over 80 toys and games!
Gina and Steve Burrows (and the kids)
Long time philanthropists, the Burrows family collected toys at their annual Christmas party this year for Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund. Because of their efforts, we were able to supply Comer with one of the hottest toys of 2011 - a Wow Wee Paper Jamz Guitar!
A Special Thanks to Marissa Mortensen, founder of Hope for Children, for spending Saturday afternoon and evening labeling, sorting and packaging up the toys, and for being with us as we delivered the items to Comer.
Every donation to our Ladybug Love for the Holidays: Toy Drive campaign made a difference. They all added up and added up quickly. So, thank you to all the unnamed donors. It is with your support we are able to ensure that EVERY child hospitalized at Comer has the best possible Christmas, under the circumstances.
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