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Community comes together to make the holidays merry for Akron Children’s patients

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When the employees at the Columbiana County Sherriff’s Department have a toy drive, they mean business. It took a special unit SWAT Team paneled truck, an SUV and a minivan to get all the toys collected to Akron Children’s Hospital.

Deputy John Price and Clerk Jennifer Tucker were the busy elves behind this community outpouring, and they were excited about the results of the drive and prospect of making so many kids happy this holiday season.

This was the fourth year for the drive, and by far, the most successful year.

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Deputy Price and his wife Pearl, of Salem, have spent countless days at Akron Children’s since their son, Sebastian, was born  4 years ago at 27 weeks gestation, weighing only 2 lbs, 11 oz.

“We practically lived over there for 5 months after he was born,” said Price. “He was born at St. Elizabeth’s  and then pretty much immediately life-flighted by Air Bear to Akron Children’s because he had to have emergency surgery for perforated bowels and brain bleeds.”

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Since then, he’s endured 17 surgeries and 3 life flights to Akron Children’s Hospital.

That means he and his wife have spent many nights at the Ronald McDonald House over the past 4 years.

“After he was born in March, we were finally able to head home around Thanksgiving and it struck us at that point how hard it would have been to spend Christmas at the hospital,” said Price. “That’s when the idea for the toy drive was born – to help bring comfort to all those families that had to endure the holidays with a hospitalized child.”

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Co-conspirator Tucker said the idea was a no brainer and she has helped with the drive since its inception. She and Price worried initially that this year was going to be a bust. But once the word got out there was a need, it has been heartwarming for them to see the community response.

“A lot of businesses here in the community buckled down and helped out,” said Tucker. “We’re really grateful to everyone, including the Sharon Dollar Tree, which donated an unbelievable 30 cases of toys. Thanks also go out to Mahoning Valley Sheriff Jerry Greene, who donated $500.”

Price said they were sure to remember the families at the Ronald McDonald House, their home away from home.

“We’re so grateful to the people there, we wanted to make sure to spread the wealth. We were proud to be able to make a $1,250 donation and give them $135 in gift cards,” Price said.

As the way with all good elves, Tucker and Price are already plotting about next year. They predict an even larger drive next year.

“I hope we need to rent a semi truck to get all the toys to Akron Children’s next year,” said Price.