This is how it all began...
In 2010, when I was five, I decided to start a fund that would benefit the children of Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, a journey that started after my little brother spent time in the hospital.
Shortly after Benjamin was born, he developed fevers that reached 107+ degrees every four weeks. The fevers led to a week-long hospitalization and that is when my interactions with the Child Life specialists began. Not only did they explain everything that was happening to Benjamin, but also helped entertain and distract him during procedures. In addition, they helped me understand what was happening with each test and procedure. They even brought up a cupcake from the cafeteria to help celebrate my birthday.
Through our exchanges, I became aware of what the hospitalized children and families were going through, and one day asked when the children got to go home for Christmas. When I was told that some children were too sick to go home, Alexander’s Toy Trunk, Inc. was born. After we got home from the hospital, I created the original piggy bank from a holiday box and crafts.
The first year, I raised money from my allowance and birthday gifts to the random money that children somehow collect from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Every year since, my organization has grown due to added activities, including lemonade, hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookie stands, vendor shows and partnerships with local businesses.
While the contributions started at Christmas time, over the years, I have expanded to all months of the year. Examples include:
- My brother and I ask for donations to the hospital in lieu of gifts for our birthdays.
- As news of Alexander’s Toy Trunk, Inc. has spread, it has inspired others, even people I have never met, to get involved, including knitting hats, creating logos and children asking for donations instead of gifts at their own birthday parties.
- Through my partnership with Caribou Coffee, I have donated coffee to the staff and families in the hospital.
As my efforts grew, I determined with the Director of Child Life at Levine Children’s Hospital to focus on the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which is often overlooked at the holidays when toys are donated. Currently, I am expanding to collect toys for other children’s hospitals across the country.
The Early Years:
- I gathered money in any way I could (saving change, birthday money, allowance, grandparents) and had a hot cocoa stand in my neighborhood in Matthews, NC.
- I expanded to include a chocolate chip cookie sale in Charlotte, NC and a lemonade stand in Southport, NC.
- I added a cider and donut stand in Southport, NC.
- A neighborhood held a toy and gift collection in Pineville, NC.
- I partnered with Caribou Coffee (donated coffee and gift drive) in Charlotte, NC and SPX Flow (gift drive) in Charlotte, NC.
- A local charter school in Charlotte, NC did a school-wide drive.
- I hosted a vendor/holiday show with home businesses to help spread the word about what I do in support of children’s hospitals.
- Through selling Go, Play, Save fund raising coupon books to support our school, I donated the prizes to the hospital (dinner certificates and circus tickets).
As a result of all of my hard work over the years, I was recognized by Levine Children’s Hospital as a hero in my community and my story was shared on People.com, including an interview on PeopleNOW and locally on WCNC (Charlotte’s NBC affiliate) that was shared on other NBC affiliates throughout the country (Richmond, VA, Raleigh, NC, Baltimore, MD, Cleveland, OH, and Dallas, TX).
- Through selling Go, Play, Save fund raising coupon books to support our school, I donated the prizes to the hospital (100 18-hole miniature golf passes).
- I worked with the talented Stephen Lindsay, a tattoo artist in Rochester, New York and long time friend of the family, to develop my official logo.
- And finally, the year culminated with an appearance on Good Morning America on Christmas morning! It was a great way to celebrate all of the hard work and generous contributions from all of you over the years.
- Benjamin collected and donated 140 dvds and blu-ray movies for the movie library at Levine Children’s Hospital.
- In June, I was on Good Morning America again, this time as an audience member. I even got a tour and got to meet Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan and the wonderful producer who made it all happen, Doug Vollmayer.
- Partnered with Fit Body Boot Camp Fort Mill for a toy collection at the gym from the members. Thanks Lily!
- I sent a box to the Sinai NICU staff in Baltimore, Maryland in honor of a reporter’s daughter that did a story on a member of our extended family in addition to our local hospitals.
- In February, I was honored to be selected as the middle school representative from North Carolina for Prudential’s Spirit of the Community Awards in Washington, D.C.
- For Benjamin’s annual birthday drive we collected Matchbox and HotWheels cars for Levine Children’s Hospital. Along with the help of two cool little kids from the neighborhood, we donated more than 300 Matchbox and Hotwheel cars to Levine Children’s Hospital (Thanks Hutch!)
- Honoring the beloved Petra, we received a box of hats from Petra’s sewing partner, Jenn, all the way from Slovakia.
- In May, I was again honored by Prudential Financial and was selected as one of the Top 10 student volunteers in the country and named a National Honoree in the Spirit of Community Awards ceremony at Union Station in Washington, DC.
- As a result of being named a National Honoree, I appeared on WBTV’s Morning Break and the North Carolina State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh, to share my experiences.
- Disc golf tournament sponsored by Harland Clarke, complete with lessons from two playing professionals for all in attendance. Thanks to Kieth and Casey for your continued support and partnership.
- Added NICU donations Novant Matthews, Novant Huntersville and Hemby Children’s Hospital for the first time. Additionally, I sent a box to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital NICU.
- Updates coming soon!