Toys help brighten hospital stay
LUMBERTON — After being rushed to the hospital, the last thing Shelia McKeithan expected was for her son, Joshua Floyd Council Jr., to be handed a shiny new toy.
A spell of coughing and wheezing had sent the asthmatic 1-year-old to the doctor’s office, and then to the emergency room.
“It got worse while we there so we took an ambulance straight to the hospital,” McKeithan said. ” … we didn’t even have time to grab any of his toys.”
Betty Council held her grandson in the hospital and watched him play.
“I feel like this is a good program because there are a lot of children in Robeson County who need toys,” Council said.
Joshua’s toy was one of more than 100 that was delivered recently to Southeastern Regional Medical Center by Shirley Chestnut, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots coordinator for Robeson and Scotland counties. Chestnut said the program doesn’t just work to put toys in stockings or under Christmas trees.
“We are always looking for people who want to donate and for children who need toys,” she said. “We give to hospitals, orphanages and families in need.”
Magenta Smith, Pediatrics manager at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, said the toys can help brighten a child’s hospital experience.
“For someone to consider giving a donation like the three boxes of toys that Shirley brought was really a blessing,” Smith said. “It brings a smile to the kids’ faces and gives them an opportunity to take their minds off their sickness.”
Smith said it’s not unusual for children to arrive at the hospital with no toys in tow.
“Unfortunately we have some kids who don’t come with anything — not even clothes,” Smith said. “If it wasn’t for donations we wouldn’t have anything to give them.”
Chestnut, who has been involved with Toys for Tots for more than 10 years, said it brings joy to her to help others and to see smiles on the kids’ faces.
This year, Chestnut has been able to see more than 1,500 children receive at least two toys.
“I do it because I use to be in the shoes of the needy and someone stepped in and helped me,” she said.
Chestnut said she started to stop working with Toys for Tots last year, but when she saw the impact of her work first hand, she continued.
“A marine wrote me a thank you letter for donating toys to his family after he had lost his job,” Chestnut said. “When he came in to give it to me, he was so thankful and grateful, that made me know that people really do need my help.”
To donate or to request a toy, visit toysfortots.org. Southeastern Regional Medical Center also accepts donations. For a list of items that are need or to make a monetary donation, call the hospital’s foundation at 910-671-5583.
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