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Hampton Bays Fire Department’s "Stuff A Truck Toy Drive" Pays It Forward

Gifts will be collected at the firehouse through December 12, and there is a dispatcher staffed 24/7. (Courtesy Photo)

It is always refreshing and encouraging, particularly during the holiday season, when someone is mindful and "pays it forward" for kindnesses extended to them, their families and others.

One such family that has undertaken to do just that is James Kappers, 3rd Assistant Chief of the Hampton Bays Fire Department, and his wife Megan, who have initiated a toy drive to help brighten the day of children hospitalized at Stony Brook Children's Hospital (SBCH), as well families who are utilizing the tremendous services offered by the Ronald McDonald House.

Following the couple's own use of numerous services provided by the Ronald McDonald House, after the premature birth of their son, Kolton, born at SBCH two years ago, James explained, "The real reason we thought about doing this, particularly around the holidays, is that when our son was born prematurely on November 4, he was hospitalized for about a month. He was released and a few months later was admitted again for 42 days. At the time my wife, in particular, utilized the Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook, and it was so comforting to have a place where you could stay, have a shower and where other family members, such as our daughter, now four, could come and spend time with us, as we tried to keep the holidays bright and positive." Kolton recently celebrated his 2nd birthday and is doing just great according to his dad.

"After the long hospital stays for Kolton, we were aware of just how many families were in the same situation as us and just trying to do their best," James continued.

As a member of the Fire Department, James revealed, "I have participated in other fundraising efforts over the years, but we felt a Stuff a Truck Toy Drive would be the most appropriate way to brighten the days of these hospitalized children, and their siblings too, as well as recognize the Ronald McDonald House in appreciation of what they do for families, along with Stony Brook Children's Hospital."

Gifts will be collected at the firehouse through December 12, and there is a dispatcher staffed 24/7. Located at 69 West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, James advised, "Stop by with a gift and just ring the doorbell and someone will come out to collect them, but please no stuffed animals as they may carry germs. The drive is going very well, and we have been touched by the outpouring of gifts - so much more than I expected."

The gifts will be distributed on December 13, when members of the Hampton Bays Fire Department will arrive in their truck to visit The Ronald McDonald Family Room at SBCH and deliver gifts to not only the children who are battling illness, but their siblings too. Any additional gifts will be distributed to other Ronald McDonald Family Rooms across Long Island by the RMDFR Staff.

James concluded, "It is always a good thing to be able to brighten the day of families affected by illness in a manner that the whole family's spirits are lifted and maybe helps get them through these difficult times."

For more information on the Toy Drive, contact James Kappers at Jpk528@hotmail.com, or call 631-445-3495, or visit hamptonbaysfiredept.com.

There are more than 350 Ronald McDonald Houses in the nation, and their mission is clear and simple, "That nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child - not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest. A Ronald McDonald House provides a place for families to call home so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost. At every House, families can enjoy home-cooked meals, private bedrooms and playrooms for children. Families are stronger when they are together, which helps in the healing process. By staying at a Ronald McDonald House, parents also can better communicate with their child's medical team and keep up with complicated treatment plans when needed. They can also focus on the health of their child, rather than grocery shopping, cleaning or cooking meals."

So pay it forward, and donate a toy that will be sure to bring a smile to a young hospitalized child, their sibling and their parents too! Happy Holidays!

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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