January 7, 2012
For a few moments, the children had more pressing issues than aches, boo-boos, yucky medicines and scary-looking medical devices at Winthrop-University Hospital's pediatric center.
"Look at all the toys," Carey Davis Jr., 7, shouted to his mom.
Mounds of stuffed animals, board games and toy cars awaited children at the Mineola hospital Friday.
It was part of the 14th annual Extend the Holidays toy drive organized by state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick). More than 2,000 toys were collected to be given to Winthrop's young patients throughout the year.
"It's a way to put joy back in their lives," Fuschillo said after speaking with kids and helping them select toys. "It lets them forget for a little bit and just have fun like kids are supposed to."
Sorting through the treasure trove was Carey, who has had two surgeries -- with more to follow -- to remove a cyst on his left femur. His mother, Celeste Mejia of Cedarhurst, guided his wheelchair through the mounds of gifts, delighting in his excitement.
"It helps take the mind away from the pain," Mejia said. "Seeing something like this doesn't happen every day. It makes me grateful for everyone's generosity."
In the spirit of generosity, Carey decided to pick up a princess doll for his sister Mariah, 3. "She's always losing her toys," Carey explained.
The toys were collected over a two-month period with the help of 19 schools in Fuschillo's district. Also assisting in the effort was the Nassau County Sheriff Officers Association, Laborers Local 66 and Local 1298.
"There are a lot of giving hearts in Long Island," Fuschillo said.
For the 2,850 pediatric patients checking into the hospital annually -- coping with everything from cancer to respiratory issues -- the gifts can provide a semblance of comfort, said Dr. Joseph Greensher, vice chairman of pediatrics at Winthrop.
"Hang around and see the smiles on their faces, then you'll see for yourself it helps," he said. "Getting something new helps them view their time at the hospital with a new approach."
Aneta Tampas of Mineola watched as her son John, 7, circled the piles of toys. Getting to take home a toy helicopter was a welcome distraction for the boy forced to wear a cast after breaking his left arm.
"He feels special," Tampas said. "All kids, poor or rich, sick or healthy deserve to feel special."