Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in Los Angeles.
“The best part is that I know all the kids are going to be happy, and it’s really fun.” Casey tells Yahoo Shine. “I wanted to do a toy drive because when I was in the hospital for Christmas, I realized how all the other kids felt not having toys or being able to be at home for Christmas.”
Casey suffers from chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, a rare condition that affects his stomach and intestines. According to Casey’s mom, Rachel Vollmar, Casey is unable to absorb nutrients from food, so he is fed intravenously each day and often suffers from intense abdominal pain. But that doesn’t get in the way of his generous spirit, Vollmar tells Yahoo Shine, adding that the toy drive was all Casey’s idea.
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“We were overwhelmed by his decision to do this, and then we were overwhelmed by our community backing him up and cheering him on,” says Vollmer. “Seeing Casey grow and become an amazing leader is very heartwarming for me and his dad.”
The first toy drive, in 2010, brought in nearly 300 toys and this year that number has doubled to more than 600 — and counting. “We are still getting donations, so I plan to make a second drop of toys on Jan. 15,” says Vollmar. The family is also still accepting donations via Casey’s Facebook page.
According to Kellye Carroll, director of the Chase Child Life program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, the toys are used for a variety of things throughout the year, including a “shopping room” that the hospital sets up for the holiday season. Parents of children who are staying in the hospital, or who had lengthy stays during the year, are invited to “shop” for toys for their kids — and every toy is free. The hospital receives thousands of donated toys every year and, according to Carroll, every one is given away. In addition to the holidays, goodies are given to pediatric patients after undergoing surgery or a difficult procedure as well as on their birthdays.
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“We want to make the hospital experience as normal as possible. For a kid, the way you make something normal is you allow them an opportunity to play,” says Carroll, “Plus, in terms of Casey, our kids think it’s really neat that somebody who has been here wants to make sure the kids who are still here are taken care of."
Let the playing begin …