Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge everything we’re grateful for and at Akron Children’s Hospital, our list is pretty long. From donors to volunteers to staff to patient families, there are so many people who make the lives of our patients and patient families better through the donation of their time, talents or money.
In celebration of this season of gratitude, we wanted to highlight a couple of those donors who have taken the time to make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families.
The Rachel Baker Memorial Toy Drive
For the past 6 years, Judy Baker has organized an annual toy drive in her hometown of Brookfield, Ohio, to honor the memory of her daughter Rachel, who was studying to become a pediatric oncology nurse at Youngstown State University two years after being diagnosed with leukemia.
Baker and co-organizers delivered hundreds of new toys to Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley on Oct. 23, just after what would have been Rachel’s 27th birthday.
“Rachel was a very happy, outgoing person,” her mother said. “She always liked to have fun and she enjoyed every moment of her life.
“She was first diagnosed with leukemia following her freshman year in college, and then went through a year of treatment and a year in remission. When she returned to school she changed her career focus so she could help children who were going through what she went through. She wanted to lift people’s spirits, and had visions of being a ‘nurse Patch Adams.’”
At the time of her passing the family requested toy donations in lieu of flowers, and they were donated to Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. The outpouring was so generous that the family created the Rachel Baker Memorial Toy Drive that has been held every year since.
A Celebratory NICU Book Donation
Danielle and Ron Nelson remember how much it meant to them when people would leave things for the families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“It kind of made your day a little better, even if it was just something really small, to know there were people thinking of you and that it was kind of going to be ok,” said Danielle.
The Nelsons’ daughter, Leightyn, stayed in the NICU for 180 days after she was born 6 weeks early, diagnosed with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, and then contracted necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease where tissue in the small or large intestine is injured or begins to die off.
“We had a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” Danielle said of their stay in the NICU. “It was a constant roller coaster until that week when they finally said we’re going to send her home.”
Carrie Stackhouse, a friend of the Nelsons, ran 6 races in honor of Leightyn and fundraised to do something for Akron Children’s in Leightyn’s name. The Nelsons decided to return to the NICU in celebration of Leighton’s first birthday and donate 2 books to every NICU family – “Wonder” and “It’s Okay to Be Different.”
“We thought those books would be a nice way to teach the babies and their families about children who are different, while also giving them something nice to read while they were in the NICU,” Danielle said.
Danielle said that despite being just 14-months-old, Leightyn has taught the family more than Danielle could express.
“She’s really taught us how to be strong and accepting, and that life isn’t all about material things or looks. There’s so much more to life than that,” said Danielle. “She’s taught us how to love unconditionally.”
Thank you to everyone who donates to Akron Children’s in any way, big or small. You help make our patients’ time here a little brighter and we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.
For more information on volunteering or donating items to Akron Children’s, please contact our volunteer services office at 330-543-8424 (Akron campus) or 330-746-8350 (Beeghly campus). If you are interested in making a monetary donation to support Akron Children’s, you can do so here or by calling Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation at 330-543-8340.