"He'd be so proud and so happy to see the smiles on these kids' faces. You know that's all he ever looked forward to," said Sue Staehele, Marks' mother.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer at 12 years old, Mark vowed that no kids in hospitals should be without presets at Christmas. The toy drive has grown over the years and now the hospital has enough gifts to last for an entire year.
"Just a couple hundred the first year in 2001. Just enough for his buddies the inpatients in oncology," said Sue Staehele. But now? "Over 30,000," said Sue Staehele.
The gifts are collected in the Shorewood and Joliet area and this year there are so many that they will be shared with several other hospitals and charities. They are gifts of joy in difficult times.
Benjamin Franklin said, "A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough." And, that's certainly the case with Mark Staehele. While fighting cancer he learned to give and give and give. And yes he still is.
"I see Mark in every child that smiles. You know, every child that smiles and says thank you. I see Mark," said Sue Staehele.
Mark died in March 2006 at the age of 18.