Published onChildren's View
In 2016, our 8-year-old son Justin was airlifted to CHOP for emergency brain surgery. It hit us out of nowhere. When his sister and brother visited, Child Life came in with things like Legos and Play-Doh to distract them from his scary head wrap and get them to just play together. It took the fear out of the room.
After his surgery, Justin was worried about how kids in the hospital get toys from Santa. He had three things on his Christmas list that year, and one was toys for kids at CHOP. So I posted on Facebook, and we got over 100 toy donations from friends. It gave us something else to focus on during a stressful time.
Justin’s Jammers toy drive has been going — and growing — for seven years now. We put donation bins at local businesses and also have an Amazon wish list so people can see what Child Life needs. I leave a bin out for the deliveries, because one day I couldn’t open my front door with all the packages piled up.
Justin is now 15 and still loves when the toys come in. He helps me organize and pack all the toys up, and then we deliver them in person. Our last donation was about 3,000 toys!
When the pandemic hit and CHOP wasn’t accepting in-person donations, my best friend, who’s a photographer, helped us offer virtual photos with Santa for a small donation. It went viral, and we raised over $40,000.
We’ve had many ER visits and surgeries at CHOP since 2016, and Child Life has always helped us through. That’s what we wanted to do for other people — to make things less scary. We also wanted to reach more people and get Justin’s story out there to spread awareness for brain tumors.
With everything we’ve gone through, people ask how we can keep smiling. But this is the life we were handed, and there’s always somebody whose story is worse. It’s important to us to give back, and I want my kids to know it’s better to give than to receive.
People come to CHOP from all over the country and the world. We’re lucky it’s right in our backyard and really honored we can do something for other CHOP families.
Learn how you can donate to the Child Life Program.