The joy of Christmas is a wondrous time of year, for both grownups and children alike. For most people, it’s that magical time when we collectively witness humankind at its best, generously giving of themselves through random acts of kindness.
For others, the holiday season is filled with the despair of witnessing a loved one grieving, or a young child struggling with a debilitating illness or injury, confined to a hospital bed.
That stark reality hit home for two siblings. Tyler Slaven, a freshman at Ohio Virtual Academy, and his older sister Monica, a senior, decided to bring a little Yuletide cheer for those children unable to spend Christmas at home with loving family members.
In 2015, the siblings organized the first donation. “Why not do a toy drive for kids that are kind of … down and not able to get around and poor health conditions, especially around Christmas? So that was when the idea was born,” Tyler said.
With the help of their school, the pair received 800 toys donated that year. The following year, that number more than doubled. The amount of donated toys continued to climb, until 2019 when the toy drive reached over 20,000 toys collected. The toys have been donated to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"*" indicates required fields
This year, the pair hopes to reach a milestone of more than 50,000 toys total given to patients over the past six years.
“They’re not in there typically for a routine they visit. That’s the sad thing. I mean, they either been there for a while or they’re in pretty bad shape … those are the kids that need brightened up the most. They’re not going to be in there for a day then get to go home, most likely.” Tyler said.
#Kindnesschampions siblings Tyler and Monica Slaven from #Ohio bring #joy to the holidays🌟— Operation Kindness (@KindnessChamps) December 10, 2021
Over the past 5 years they have donated almost 50,000 toys @nationwidekids and this year they hope to get 11,500💕 WAHOO🎉 #thereisgood❤️@nypost https://t.co/RTTln1GGM1
He went on to add, “I’m not the only one that helps facilitate it. My family, my sister … we’re still both heavily involved and helping lead and organize, but, you know, it takes a lot of people behind the scenes to help make this work. I’m just thankful that we’re in good health, that we’re able to do this every year and help organize and lead it and use the skills that God has given us and being able to expand and promote it to these kids, especially around again the holidays.”
Their goal of getting 50,000 donated toys has almost been achieved. Over 46,000 toys thus far have been collected and distributed to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“Seeing a child who truly understands … the joy of Christmas is priceless,” Tyler Slaven told Fox News. “We wanted to help the kids still have that joy, for those who are in the hospital during Christmas.”
Since the toy drive began back in 2015, the Ohio Virtual Academy, an online public school for K–12 students, has helped facilitate the toy drive across the state. “The school does a tremendous job of helping us get the word out every year and reach new people, since we are a statewide school,” acknowledged Slaven.
Every year, the toys are packed in a U-Haul vehicle and various cars and taken directly to the children. “Once you get on the hospital property, it is just phenomenal. They’re so friendly and welcoming and spirited. It’s a true joy to be around,” the freshman remarked.
In 2020, the Slavens have had to adjust their toy drive due to COVID-19.
“This year’s toy drive will look a bit different due to the guidelines and protocols that we are following to ensure the health and safety of my team, the donors, the hospital staff, and most importantly, the children,” said Tyler. “After all of the crazy things 2020 has thrown at us, I am proud to announce that the Ohio Virtual Academy Agricultural Society will be continuing our sixth annual Christmas Toy Drive for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”
Tyler went on to add, “In an attempt to keep everyone as safe as possible, we are encouraging that the community help the children out by making a monetary donation this year. As always, each donation will be used to purchase toys for the children in the hospital who will not be able to be home with their families for Christmas. For this year’s drive, no locations are available for toys to be dropped off. Our goal is to keep everyone safe, which requires special handling.”
"*" indicates required fields