Mom continues son's toy drive at Children's Memorial

December 17, 2009 6:14:45 AM PST
When children have to spend the holidays in the hospital, sometimes the best medicine is a brand new toy. That's what happened this morning at Children's Memorial Hospital. The good that people do doesn't always live on after them, but the good that Mark Staehely did is still very much alive. Once again thousands of presents arrive at Children's Memorial Hospital in time for the holidays.

Mark Staehely was a cancer patient here who at 12 made a promise that hospitalized children should never be without a Christmas present. For five years he ran the toy drive until he passed away in March of 2006. Now his mother carries on.

"It's sad because Mark isn't here to see all of what we bring in," said Sue Staehely. "But the year before he died his dream was that every child would get a toy in the hospital and he saw that dream come true."

Mark's dream has actually gone beyond expectations. That first year 150 presents were collected. Now eight years later there are well over 30,000 gifts for lots of lucky kids.

Jeremy and Kevin Tracz said they received the present they wanted and that it was "awesome" to receive the gifts.

There are enough presents to last the entire year at Children's with some left over for other hospitals.

Now a new chapter is being added to this inspiring Christmas story. It involved a 13-year-old girl named Alysse Nicholson who was at Children's on Wednesday for chemo therapy.

Alysse was diagnosed with brain cancer this past summer. Coincidentally, she and her parents Sharon and Jim live in the same area as the Staehelys near Joliet. Alysse is now picking up Mark's torch.

"We collected over 400 gifts to give to the kids in hospital to make their holiday a little more happier," Alysse Nicholson said.

"The minute I walk in this door I feel Mark is here with us," Sue Staehely said. "And he's saying good job, good job guys."


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