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Welcome to the next installment in our “Who Gives a Chip?” series, which celebrates the everyday heroes in our community.  Their passion, and commitment to ‘giving a chip,’ inspires us, and we hope it will do the same for you.

Madeline Guarraia is a 9-year-old girl from East Lyme, CT who is currently fighting her third battle with cancer.  Her community has come together to offer their love, prayers, and support during this incredibly difficult time, but Madeline remains positive, kind, and giving.  Her only wish for Christmas this year was for her neighbors to donate toys for older children to local children’s hospitals!

Amy Parulis heard her request and stepped up to organize Madeline’s Wish Toy Drive.  We spoke with Amy about the drive.

 1. What inspired you to organize Madeline’s Wish Toy Drive?

I, like many others felt at a complete loss. We all wanted to do something to help Madeline and her family. One day, Madeline’s mom, Amie, posted on Facebook that Madeline wanted to spend some time paying it forward to others. When Madeline was asked what she wanted for Christmas, she said that people should donate toys to other sick kids at Yale. In particular, she said the older kids needed more gifts; that they tended to get overlooked. I decided I would collect and deliver them to Yale. Once I said that and put it on Facebook, it just took off!

2. Can you tell us what Madeline’s Wish Toy Drive is doing and why?

At only 9 years old, Madeline recognized a need for gifts for the older children in the hospital. Once other people caught wind of this, they started contacting me to see what they could do to help out.  We have just under 70 locations throughout the state that are donation drop-offs for Madeline’s Wish. The weekend before Christmas, my elves and I will go around picking up from the locations and organizing the donations. On Monday, December 21st, we will be delivering the donations to Yale. We also asked Madeline if we could donate to some other hospitals since we are getting so many donations. While the bulk of donations are going to Yale, we are also making donations to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Dana Farber/Boston Children’s Medical Center.

3. What kinds of items are you collecting?

Calling it a Toy Drive might be a little misleading. Our focus is on children 10-18. Adult coloring books, elaborate art kits, Amazon and iTunes gift cards, hats, fun socks, footballs, etc. Don’t get me wrong — we will accept items for younger children, too, but Madeline pointed out the need for gifts for the older children.

4. What is the hardest part of this endeavor?

Madeline’s Wish Toy Drive took off like crazy! It’s awesome the number of people and businesses that have stepped up to help. I wake up in the morning with my Facebook exploding with people asking what they can do. Trying to keep up with all of the questions while still doing my day job has been a bit tiring. I would never complain about it, or really say it’s hard, but I’ve been more tired than normal.

5. What makes it all worth it to you?

This is what Madeline asked for. It’s her wish. We are helping to make not only her smile, but hundreds of other sick children.

6. What would you tell someone who is looking to make a difference in their community?

There are so many ways you can help out in your community. You can find an organization dedicated to just about anything you’re passionate about. The internet is a great way to find these things. Just don’t be shy; once you find something, contact them and see how you can help out.

If you’d like to contribute to Madeline’s Wish Toy Drive, check out their Facebook page to locate your nearest drop-off location.  You can also send them directly to Yale-New Haven Hospital:

Toy Closet Program
Yale-New Haven Hospital
20 York St
New Haven, CT 06510
Include with the gift card a note that says it’s for Madeline’s Wish

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