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Oak Lawn firefighters’ toy drive brings holiday cheer to young patients

brittany fitzgerald photo 12 27

Photo by Kelly White

Oak Lawn Fire Department Paramedic Brad Callaghan hands a gift to Brittany Fitzgerald and her daughter, Malin, 2, during the fire department’s toy drop-off last Thursday morning.

By Kelly White

The Oak Lawn Fire Department prides itself on caring for its community.

For the second year in a row, the department has been a part of the Advocate Children’s Hospital’s annual toy drive.

“It’s nice to be able to bring some happiness and joy to patients in the Children’s Hospital,” said Oak Lawn Fire Department Chief Mike Mavrogeorge. “It’s a sad time for families and kids to be in the hospital, especially during the Christmas season. This is something we can do to brighten the day for these children.”

Through the generosity of others like those at the Oak Lawn Fire Department, Advocate Children’s Hospital has been able to hand out toys throughout the holiday season, and even after to extend to gift giving throughout the entire calendar year, to its patients at the hospital, 4400 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn.

“I have had a son in the hospital who received a generous and unexpected gift while there,” said Russ Engel, engineer for the Oak Lawn Fire Department. “I know firsthand the joy that it brought my son. To have such a large children’s hospital right in our town, and to be able to bring so much joy to so many children and families is a win-win. The outpouring of generosity from the citizens of Oak Lawn and the firefighters and their families is really overwhelming. It truly feels better to give than receive.”

Throughout the month of December, the department has been collecting donated gifts for patients at the newborn stage all the way through teenage years. In almost a month’s time, they have collected several hundred toys and gift cards, working off of a list provided by the hospital, which suggests items best suited for the children’s wants and/or needs. The department also collected over $1,500 in cash from those that wanted to contribute but did not have time to shop. Firefighters then went out in their free time and purchased toys with that money.

Donated items were all brand new, and included, but were not limited to: teething toys, rattles, bibs, light up toys, puzzles, board games, dolls, action figures, card games, Barbies, Legos, Hot Wheels cars, arts and crafts supplies, sports related items, iTunes gift cards, Target gift cards and Xbox gift cards.

Donations were accepted at any of the three Oak Lawn Fire Department stations: 4401 W. 103rdSt., 6451 W. 93rd Place, or 9446 S. Raymond Ave.

Last Thursday morning, Oak Lawn Fire Department members were able to deliver their presents to children at Advocate Children’s Hospital through a scheduled drop-off organized by hospital staff. However, even more important, was being able to meet patients and their loved ones firsthand, Engel said.

“We had the opportunity to visit with the kids and their families, wishing them a Merry Christmas and giving them gifts to keep their minds off of being sick; even if it was only for a moment,” Engel said. “The firefighters were able to sit and talk with the children and their families and answer any questions they had. This is the Oak Lawn Fire Departments’ favorite part of the event.”

“This is amazing that these firefighters are taking time out of their busy schedules to do this for our children,” said Takeya McCarthy, of Park Forest.

McCarthy’s son, 9-year-old, Lamar McCarthy-Brooks, was the recipient of arts and craft supplies because of his love for drawing and the arts.

Hospital staff members reported to be grateful for the support and overwhelming overall success of the toy drive.

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