JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of toys are bringing joy to children fighting disease and recovering from injuries at Wolfson Children's Hospital.
The hospital's annual Christmas in July toy drive collects toys for hospitalized children during the summer months, when supplies often run low.
“One of the things that is our greatest challenge in the hospital is that opportunity for play really gets diminished,” said Michael Aubin, president of Wolfson Children's Hosptial. “They end up in situations where they are very ill, and they don’t have the ability to do that.”
Wolfson collects toys throughout the year, but a majority of donations come in during the holidays, which led to the summer toy drive push.
“What we do with the toys, we work with the kids, put a smile on their face, get them to feel like this isn’t as terrible as it might be for them and their families, and they keep growing and developing,” Aubin said.
Santa Claus even made the trip from the North Pole Monday to surprise the children.
Throughout the morning, community members and business leaders stopped by to drop off toys and donations, which benefit children like Mason Tran, who has a tumor in his neck.
"Oh my gosh, it's amazing,” Mason's mother, Bethany Tran, said. “All the people that came to try and cheer up Mason while he was in the hospital, the support the community gave."
That support continued Monday as Santa and The Big Ape from 95.1 delivered the goodies, putting a smile on each child's face.
The staff at Wolfson said that if the gifts distract the children and their families from the pain and illness they are fighting -- even if only for a moment -- it's worth it.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, Wolfson said that the drive had raised $12,665 in online giving, $105 in cash and checks, and 7,571 new toys. Wolfson said 3,000 toys were collected last year and $6,920 in monetary donations were raised in the past three years.
Anyone who wishes to donate can do so until Aug. 1 on christmasjuly.com.