Jane Neaves is looking for help from Niagara-on-the-Lake residents.
She has spent much of her time in recent years at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital, first to visit and support a dear friend of hers whose little girl, just three when she was diagnosed with cancer, was in hospital for more than a year. That was five years ago, and the toddler is now eight years old, and still going for treatments as an outpatient. Neaves often drives to help the family, which includes an older sister, now a teenager in high school.
“There are three of us still doing what we can to help the family,” says Neaves. “I do the driving.”
In all the time she has spent at the Hamilton hospital, it wasn’t until last year, when she was there shortly before Christmas, that she realized there are children who don’t get to go home for the holiday.
This year, she says, there will be 85 children on the ward Christmas Day.
Many families, spending days, months, and more with a seriously ill child in the hospital, are unable to work and struggle financially, says Neaves, so she determined she would help make Christmas a little easier for them. Last year she reached out to friends through social media, and received donations of money and toys, making sure every child in the hospital, and in some cases siblings — who often feel forgotten during a difficult family situation, she says — had gifts to open at Christmas.
This year, she’s organizing another toy drive, aided by friends who helped out last year.
One of those friends is Pat Darte, who is spear-heading a local toy drive for children in McMaster’s paediatric cancer ward.
He’s already had an outpouring of support locally, and wants to spread the word for others who would like to help. “I want to make sure as many kids are happy at Christmas as possible,” he says.
Donations can be dropped off at his home at 834 Queenston Road in NOTL, or email email@example.com.