Lunenburg brothers hold toy drive

Published 8:58 am Monday, December 28, 2015

At the Lunenburg County home of the Ashworth family this holiday a toy drive is in full effect.

Dalton, 13, a student at Lunenburg Middle School, and Logan, 10, who attends Victoria Elementary School, are gathering toys that will be taken to children at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond.

This is the second year of what is labeled Operation Cheer.

“Last year they were hoping to get 40 to 50 gifts and they ended up with many more than that,” their mother, Rachael Ashworth, said. “This year it has grown.”

The toys were to be delivered Monday, Dec. 21

“They receive board games, stuffed animals, remote control cars, dolls, hand-held electronic games, action figures, basket balls, tea sets,” Ashworth said.

The boys chose St. Mary’s Hospital because Dalton was a patient there when he was 11 years old a few days after Christmas, Ashworth said. He was in and out of the hospital for the next several months.

“During his first stay he received a gift and even though he was quite ill it meant a lot to him that someone thought of him,” Ashworth said. “He also received Valentine’s Day gifts from the nurses and Easter gifts from others.”

Initially, Dalton wanted to do something like develop a unit at the hospital dedicated to just children with Crohn’s disease, which is what he is diagnosed with, his mother said.

“We told him that he may need to start off with something on a smaller scale so he wanted to do a toy drive,” she said. “He thought it would make the sick children feel better if only for a few minutes or at least distract them for a little while. His brother also wanted to be involved.”

Last year they just distributed to the pediatric unit and the pediatric intensive care unit, Ashworth said. This year they are extending it to the Outpatient Pediatric Infusion Center, which is where Dalton goes for treatments every eight weeks, she said.

When told about the idea of a toy drive, Rachael and her husband, Carl, thought it a good idea.

“After seeing Dalton spend so many days ­— 45 inpatient — in the hospital, anything to cheer a child up or take their mind off of what’s going on and being sick is worth it,” she said.

To spread the word, they made flyers and distributed them to family and friends.

“Their Grandma Cookie also spreads the word at the Victoria Christian Church,” Ashworth said.

The gifts come to the family’s house, where they are wrapped and coded with a number to correspond with the gender and age of the gift for the child, she said.

They actually distribute to the patients, unless the children are on restrictions, and then the gifts are taken to them by the hospital staff and the boys wave at them from the hall, Ashworth said.

“You can tell how touched the children and the parents are, and that is priceless,” Ashworth said.