Imagine for a moment the joy of a child opening a brand-new toy that’s only his or hers to play with. Now take that joy and multiply it by over two thousand.
Zach and Maddy Rodrigues, students at Illinois Lutheran High School, Crete, Ill., have hosted a toy drive the past two years for Comer Children’s Hospital that has brought happiness to thousands of children going through difficult times.
The cause is personal to Maddy, who is living with osteogenesis imperfecta, a bone disorder that has resulted in many broken bones—and many trips to the hospital.
“I understand what the kids at Comer are going through, and there’s a lot of stress in it,” Maddy explains. “If they had given me a toy at different times when I was in the hospital, it would’ve really helped.”
The idea for a toy drive began with Zach’s baseball organization, which collected toys for Comer. He heard stories about how the toys made a huge difference. “It hit a spot for me and made me want to personally do something to help these kids out,” he says.
In 2020, Zach and Maddy held their first drive on their own and were overwhelmed by the outcome, collecting over one thousand toys for the hospital.
In 2021, the impact was even greater. The grand total came to 1,275 toys. There were so many bags and boxes that they had to load two cars when they delivered the toys to the hospital. “People really showed their generosity,” Zach says.
To reach this number, the siblings reached out to their networks at school and on social media and found support at their church as well.
Kendall Cook, pastor at Trinity, Crete, Ill., contacted Jeremy, the teens’ father, to see if Trinity could help them in their efforts. Over the span of one month, the congregation rallied behind the cause and contributed a large amount of gifts.
“What these kids are doing is pretty remarkable,” says Cook, “and they’re very humble when asked about it. You can tell that they really enjoy doing this.”
Zach and Maddy are glad they can let their lights shine in this way.
“Being generous and showing your faith help in so many ways,” Zach says. “This toy drive is our way of showing that there is good from God and that he is gracious.”
Zach and Maddy are looking forward to hosting the toy drive again this year and seeing the difference it continues to make.
Author: Gabriella Blauert
Volume 109, Number 02
Issue: February 2022