In a normal holiday season, Advocate Children’s Hospital would have accepted hundreds of donated toys and games that would have brought smiles to so many patients’ faces. But 2020 was anything but normal because of COVID-19, and the toy drive was not able to continue as it had in the past.
That didn’t stop the Oak Lawn Fire Department from making sure children spending the holidays in the hospital were as happy as possible.
“We typically collect enough toys to completely fill the storage rooms in the hospital,” explained Jeff Goworowski, firefighter and public relations director for the Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Union Local 3405. “There were many unknowns this year, but we knew one thing for sure: We were going to find a way to come through for the kids and their families.”
The fire department worked with the hospital’s Child Life, Creative Arts Therapies and Education Department to hold a virtual toy drive. They took to social media, partnered with other fire department unions and collected monetary donations however they could.
“We set an initial goal of $2,000, and through the generosity of our donors, we were able to write a check for more than $6,600!” shared Jeff.
Their efforts are especially meaningful during times like these.
“The pandemic caused extra stress on our first responders, yet the fire department was able to take the time and energy to support children and families in their community,” said Maggie O’Connor, child life specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Oak Lawn. “We are eternally grateful for their partnership and for thinking of our patients every year.”
The funds raised will help purchase toys and activities for patients and their families.
“Toys, activities, and games help to support normalization and provide a positive experience,” explained Maggie. “Because of this generous gift, patients will have a special item that will not only make them feel more at home, but also give them comfort during a very scary time.”
Jeff and his team are just happy to be able help.
“Our hope is that these gifts generate a few smiles from the patients and some relief for the families,” he said. “We want our colleagues at Advocate to know that the Oak Lawn Fire Department is there for support and for the families to know that they have a community behind them. We are all on the same team.”
Going above and beyond
Aside from being great partners each holiday season, the Oak Lawn Fire Department is also participating in Project Fire Buddies, a local effort to help kids with life-threatening illnesses.
“This past Christmas, we were very fortunate to create an unforgettable experience for our 6-year-old fire buddy A.J., who’s battling leukemia,” shared Jeff. “The afternoon consisted of a fire truck parade led by Star Wars Storm Troopers and ended with dozens of gifts being torn open on the front lawn of his house.”
That’s not all the department has planned for their young friend.
“Project Fire Buddies is unique because we’re able to form lasting relationships with the kids and their families,” said Jeff. “Once it’s safe, we’re planning a laser tag match between our firefighters and A.J.”
How you can help
Many programs at Advocate Children’s Hospital are made possible because of generous donors like you. Please consider supporting our patients and families by making a gift today.