We have officially wrapped up our 6th Annual Toys of JOY toy drive. This year the support we received was simply amazing. Toys were delivered to 25 hospitals across NJ, NY & PA. We supported local families, made hospital visits with Santa and threw a party at St Peter’s University hospital for dozens of children.
Brenna Messana, President of Friends of JJ, starts creating a calendar for the toy drive a few weeks after the Halloween season ends. She coordinates with child life teams and hospitals across 3 states for either package delivery, hand delivery or an actual in person visit with patients. Once the calendar is set, Val Messana (mother of JJ) recruits and schedules the volunteers to make deliveries. Many of the volunteers have been helping us since the very 1st season! The volunteers are long time friends, family members or new additions that only know of the JJs story but are eager to help our cause. These volunteers make it possible for us to spread JOY far and wide!
To kick off the Toy Drive, Coaches for a Cause run by Toms River Soccer Club and Carl Leschinski hosts a weekend soccer tournament fundraiser. Hundreds of children play in the tournament, each team donates to FOJJ and each player brings a toy. At the end of the weekend our storage POD of toys is always packed! Yes, a storage POD is needed to hold all the toys we receive each season!
We team up with local businesses and organization that collect toys using their Toys of JOY collection boxes. If you frequent local stores in Monmouth County you have most likely seen one. Our volunteers help us pick up the toys from our boxes around town and deliver them to our POD. Once the toys arrive the Messana family gets to work organizing, tagging and packing up toys in large clear bags. This year we filled over 150 bags of toys – and these bags are BIG!
Toys were delivered to 25 hospitals this season. We had Santa join us at Monmouth Medical to pass out toys to the patients and their families. At St. Peter’s University Hospital we hosted a POP UP SHOP Party where families and children could fill their bags with toys, games, gift cards and more to supply presents for their entire family. These events at the hospital are pure joy for the families staying there. It is a pleasure getting to know the families and bringing smiles to them.
Aside from our Toys of JOY toy drive we also work on a few other projects during the Holidays. This year we sent a very special local girl and her family to the PNC Bank Arts Center Holiday Lights Display to bring them some Holiday Joy. This young girl has been effected by pediatric cancer but was thankfully not at the hospital over the holidays. We also participated in the Ronald McDonald House Adopt a Family program. This program allows families that have stayed at the RMH to send in wish lists for their holiday presents. Friends of JJ “Adopted” 6 families. One of our long term sponsors, Alfano Renovations donated over $2,000 worth of gift cards for our older patients in the hospital and moms/dads/caretakers.
We would like to send a huge THANK YOU to all our generous donors, supporters, volunteers and everyone who participated in our Toys of JOY toy drive this year.