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Family collects more than 2,000 toys for Children's Hospital of Michigan in memory of 9-year-old son

Feb 8, 2021

Children’s Hospital of Michigan received one of their largest single donations of toys all thanks to a 9-year-old boy from Grosse Pointe, whose family organized a toy drive in his name.

For young kids, getting a new toy is like a glimpse into heaven. So on Friday, a U-haul trucked packed to the brim with toys was sent to a place where a glimpse of heaven is needed most.

“I think it really allows kids to transcend the hospital walls and be a child, and that’s priceless,” said Amy Pennar, whose family organized the toy drive.

Amy knows firsthand what a toy means to a child in the hospital. She spent the last two and half years in and out of the hospital, as her son Jake battled cancer.

"Jake's longest stay was 30 days but some of these kids are there for several months," Amy said. "Having a new toy once in a while gives them something to do, it allows them to focus on being a child.”

Amy's husband Krzysztof knows what it's like too. He also helped organize the toy drive, honoring his son.

“There are moments that you realize you stop becoming a parent and you start learning from your child, and his journey led me to that moment,” Krzysztof said. "He became more to me than just a son. He became someone I looked up to.”

Watching their son go through months of chemo and radiation was a challenge for the Pennar family, but watching that disease take his life at just 9 years old, was another.

The toy drive helped make that challenge easier.

“Losing a child is heartbreaking,” Amy said. "It gives a little bit of joy, a little bit of love, every time we opened up a box and opened up a toy.”

Just two weeks after Jake passed, the Pennar family was at their Detroit church, packing up their collection of 2,021 toys. Not only was it the year he passed, but 21 was also Jake's favorite number.

"It’s pretty remarkable,” Amy said. "He is so proud and so happy, I can tell you.”

The U-Haul truck filled with toys pulled right up to the front of Children’s hospital in Detroit. The hospital staff who cared for Jake was lost for words.

"It’s really special,” said Katherine Regling, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Michigan. "This is comparable to when we have our Christmas time snow pile drives. All coming from one family?! This is amazing.”

The special delivery should be no surprise to those who knew Jake. He had a passion for sharing what he had with others. Now celebrating in the joys of heaven, it's no surprise he's sharing a glimpse of that too.

"I think we made Jake proud," Krzysztof said. "I'd like to think that he's proud of us carrying this on in his name.”

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