A Facebook Post Drives a Group of Moms to Give Back

young boy in hospital bed holding a toy provided by toy drive

It all started with a mom’s Facebook post: Her son was receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL and would not get a toy prize because they were running out. Her son was devasted .

facebook post to promote local toy drive for All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL
Original Facebook post by Jessica Christen, organizer of the toy drive benefiting All Children’s Hospital along with Anna Gursky and Skyla D’Autorio.

“I knew something could be done. Just knowing that a simple toy can brighten these children’s day who are going through a lot made me want to help them.” shared Anna Gursky, a Tampa-area mom whose three-year-old son is also being treated at the hospital for Chiari malformation, an uncommon brain condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. “I made a post on the Moms of South Tampa Group with a screenshot of the post and said I would like to start a collection!”

Skyla D’Autorio, another mom whose three-year-old daughter, Trinity, is a cancer patient at the hospital knows that the hospital receives the bulk of their donations during the holidays. Typically, by fall, they are stretching whatever they had left. “Both Anna and I have children being treated at All Children’s… they are near and dear to our hearts.”

Trinity posing as a real-life wonder woman inspired people to give to a local toy drive
3-year-old Trinity is a real-life Wonder Woman fighting Neuroblastoma.

Local Toy Drive Powered by Social Media

With so many moms on board for donating, they organized a local toy drive in a nearby park to collect donations and enjoy a family afternoon complete with a bounce house, snacks, and drinks. Several moms also offered their houses as drop-off locations for those who could not attend.

“We regularly posted in the Moms of South Tampa Facebook Group and set up an event so everyone knew the details,” Anna said. “We also gave the option to drop off donations or send Amazon orders. Another mom offered her home as a drop off point. I had Amazon orders turning up at my door every day for weeks!! I also posted on my personal Facebook page and Instagram. I had several local and out of state friends donate!”

They ended up collecting 165 toys for the hospital by simply using social media. “I drove away from the local toy drive with my car PACKED with toys and tears in my eyes. People were incredibly generous,” Anna continued.

Moms Coming Together

“The MOST moms stepped up and really made the local toy drive a wonderful success,” Skyla chipped in. “Speaking as a cancer Mom, I can say first-hand that these wonderful donations mean the WORLD to these kids. Especially when they are tired and cranky from lab draws, surgeries, chemotherapy, imaging, having to be NPO (No food or drink) for hours and hours. Being able to call and have them bring new germ-free toys to your child to help distract and cheer them up is AMAZING.”

“I think it’s so important to serve our community. What a great way to show kindness and compassion to others,” Anna commented about the experience. “We don’t have to meet everyone that will benefit from our service, just knowing that we are going to make a difference in someone’s life is a wonderful feeling. It’s also a great way to teach children about giving back. My boys (6 & 3) were so excited to be taking toys to children who need cheering up.”

Every day, people around the country turn to social media to ask for support. Be it for their own family or for a community organization that provides a much-needed service, we can make someone’s life so much better with a simple act of kindness. We can learn from these strong women—and their strong community of moms—and ask ourselves, “What can we do? How can we help?” You likely won’t look far to find the answer.

If you’d like to donate toys to John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, please visit their webpage Donate Toys, Gifts and Handmade Items. To learn more about local volunteering and donating opportunities, check out https://www.volunteermatch.org/ or keep an eye out on social media and your local newspapers or community newsletters.

To follow Trinity’s story as she fights Neuroblastoma, join the Trinity Tough community on Facebook.

About the Author

Ellen Madden studied Communications and Women & Gender Studies at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She is navigating motherhood while working and celebrating life in Tampa, FL where she grew up. Ellen is a food lover and is learning the art of writing as she goes along.
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