Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Being stuck in a bed is awful, especially for a kid. These toys are what make them excited.’

North Babylon

“When I was 4 years old, I got really sick on Christmas Day and had to be rushed to the hospital. I stayed there overnight, and when I woke up in the morning, I received a big bag of toys at the end of my bed from the Child Life Program at Good Samaritan Hospital. I still remember to this day what I got. You never understand how much toys make a difference.

“The next year, I went up to my grandfather and said, ‘Papa, we need to bring some toys to the hospital.’ We got about 20 to 25 toys from family and friends, and we brought them to the hospital. As I started getting older, Emily’s Awesome Toy Drive started growing. We got approved for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit for The Emily Meyer Foundation, and here we are.

“Now it’s huge. I’ve donated over 17,000 over the life of the drive, and I’m happy to keep doing it. We don’t just do it during the holiday season. We do it all year round, which I do like because it gets some of the toys out and some of the hospitals do run out.

“After the holidays, there’s Easter, Passover and birthdays all year round, and you still want to keep the kids entertained. The main ages that we receive toys are about 5 to 12. So a lot of dolls, cars, crafts and stuff like that. I’ll get the donations to my house or pick up the toys, pack them into these big bags, load them in the car and then go to the hospitals, company or organization. Some people do like to donate money — which we’re very appreciative of — and that’ll go mainly to buying toys or bags to package my toys.

“It’s just really a great feeling knowing that I have the ability to do this because when you take a minute to think about it, being in the hospital kind of stinks.

“Being stuck in a bed is awful, especially for a kid. These toys are what make them excited. It helps their mood boost and feel better because it distracts them from the pain. Toys can even be seen as a reward after they get a treatment.

“So, when they’re able to receive something that I’ve donated, even if it’s just a puzzle or a coloring book, being able to give back and make these kids just a little bit happier, I know is something they look forward to so much. The fact that I help with that joy or happiness makes my heart warm.”

Interviewed by Victoria Bell