(WYTV) – Something a little different this week as we check in on one of our past Hometown Heroes during their busiest time of year.
Megan Stevens founded Brighten Up for the Kids 11 years ago to gift toys to kids in the hospital over the holidays.
They’re still going strong but 2020 has definitely been different.
“Last year was our biggest collection we ever had to date. We collected over 5,000 toys to deliver to Akron Children’s Hospital – Boardman Campus,” Stevens said.
Helping drive that success, this time last year, there were over 30 toy drop-off locations around the Valley.
“This year, we’re down to about six. There were some places that unfortunately weren’t open to the public or aren’t in business anymore or just couldn’t commit to the collection,” Stevens said.
Like most things in 2020, making the toy drive a success required some creativity. Instead of focusing on collecting, she shifted to buying by organizing an online auction to raise funds. Even her kids helped, making bracelets to sell and raising $80.
“They were rubber band bracelets and we made them and mom auctioned them off on Facebook and my one friend bought them all,” said Marek Stevens, Megan’s son.
Megan set a goal of $8,000, estimating that would get her close to what they donated last year. They are close to their target.
“We’re about three-fourths of the way there. So we could really use a push to help get us there,” she said.
Challenges aside, they made their first drop off of toys this past week, also a change.
“We are actually doing it two different ways with Megan this year. She is bringing us one or two carloads at a time instead of one caravan all in one day. So we went through two carloads earlier this week. We have to let them quarantine for 72 hours,” said Jamie Demain, with Akron Children’s Hospital.
Demain says last year’s donations allowed the hospital to provide toys for kids all year.
They just handed out the last item about two weeks ago — Megan is hoping this year allows that to continue.
“It feels great to be able to still provide for the hospital and it feels great to do something good in 2020. It feels great to be able to continue that,” she said.
This weekend is the last weekend to donate for their holiday toy drive.
If you’d like more information on how to help them out, head over to the non-profit’s website.