The coronavirus won’t stop 2 B.C. women from organizing annual toy drive

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It has been almost five years since Tina Richardson lost her son Sean to leukemia.

Since Sean’s passing at only seven years old, Richardson has been holding a fundraiser to collect and buy toys for patients at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Sean’s memory.

But this year, with the novel coronavirus pandemic, Richardson and family friend Ashley Hansen are encountering more challenges to keep the toy drive going.

“Each year we set a goal to shatter the previous year’s record of donations,” Hansen told Global News in an email.

“Due to the significant amount of job loss or reduction in working hours due to COVID-19, fewer people, including those who typically donate each year, have the financial means to donate this year.”

Global News viewers first met Sean when we covered his story about his dream trip to Legoland in California.

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The idea behind “Sean’s Gift of Sharing” toy drive came from his last birthday in 2015 when he was too sick to go home but was given permission to hold a birthday party just outside his oncology ward. More than 200 people attended and Sean was so overwhelmed with all his gifts that Richardson said he asked if he could share his birthday gifts with the other oncology patients.

“Dressed in his hospital gown and slippers, I lifted him into his wheelchair and pushed him around the wards so he could drop off a gift and a bag of candies for each patient. Sean was absolutely thrilled to be able to share his gifts and spread joy to these fellow oncology patients. That is how I came up with the name ‘Sean’s Gift of Sharing’,” Richardson explained.

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She said they had to refrain from setting a donation goal this year but they are still hoping this drive will be successful.

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Her former employer, WestJet, was also unable to provide her a pair of tickets to raffle off this year so it has cut their finances drastically.

“For me personally, ‘Sean’s Gift of Sharing’ is a way to keep Sean’s memory alive and to honour his very loving, generous spirit,” Tina said.

Read more: After dream trip to Legoland, B.C. boy with terminal cancer passes away

But the two women are not going to be deterred.

They have started a GoFundMe with the hopes of raising money to buy as many toys as possible and take them to the hospital on Sept. 24 — what would have been Sean’s 12th birthday.

“Normally we help bring everything to the oncology unit with child life specialists and bring cake and treats to the inpatient families to celebrate Sean’s birthday, but due to COVID-19, this will not be allowed,” Hansen said.

Anyone can still donate a brand new, unwrapped toy instead of money, and Hansen and Richardson will arrange for a contactless pick-up. All monetary donations made through the website will be used to purchase toys and gift cards with a focus on shopping locally at small businesses who may be struggling due to the pandemic.

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The two women, who have been friends since meeting at a bus stop outside of Oakridge Mall, say this toy drive every year is a way they can recognize the challenges facing children and their families when they have to spend months in hospital.

“These kids and their families face so many barriers on a daily basis that many of us, who don’t have lived experience, aren’t aware of and I think this toy drive is an incredible way to make life in a hospital just a little bit brighter while also celebrating this very special little boy,” Hansen said.

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Anyone who wishes to contact Richardson directly or send an e-transfer can email her.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the word of the 5th annual ‘Sean’s Gift of Sharing’ toy drive will spread to many people and on Sept. 24th we will once again be able to put smiles on the faces of these very deserving, courageous cancer warriors,” Richardson added.

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Below is a list provided by Hansen and Richardson of the most popular items they are looking for. They are not able to accept any plush toys, books or magazines.

  • Lego
  • Duplo
  • Playmobil
  • Action figures
  • Disney princesses
  • Hot Wheels
  • Fortnight
  • Arts & crafts sets
  • PlayDoh
  • Shopkins
  • Star Wars-themed items
  • Hasbro games
  • Crayola sets
  • Hatchimals
  • Harry Potter items
  • Klutz sets
  • Fisher-Price
  • Baby Einstein
  • Imaginarium toys
  • Wooden building blocks
  • Gift Cards (locally owned toy stores and/or shops for youth (i.e. cosmetic shops, book stores and craft stores) close to B.C. Children’s Hospital or have online ordering/delivery services within Vancouver
    – Starbucks (there is one in the hospital)
    – Amazon
    – Indigo/Chapters
    – Michael’s (craft store)
    – Toys R’ Us
    – Sephora (this is well received by youth patients, particularly those who have lost their hair due to chemo)