Hometown Heroes: Woman plays Santa to kids at Akron Children’s

Megan Stevens is the founder of the Brighten Up for the Kids Toy Drive, which collects new toys and books for children at Akron Children's Hospital.
Megan Stevens is the founder of the Brighten Up for the Kids Toy Drive, which collects new toys and books for children at Akron Children's Hospital.

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – This week’s Hometown Hero has spent the last several holiday seasons working to spread some cheer to kids who really need it.

Megan Stevens is the founder of the Brighten Up for the Kids Toy Drive, which collects new toys and books for children at Akron Children’s Hospital. This year is the sixth year for the event.

Last year, Brighten Up for the Kids collected more than 2,000 books and toys, and Stevens’ goal is to make sure that no kid has to miss out on opening a present just because they are stuck in the hospital.

“We just ask for people to open up their hearts and grab one extra toy for the kids at the hospital, so that the kids can then have Christmas that have to stay in the hospital over the holidays,” she said.

Her collection started around Thanksgiving at her family’s business, Youngstown Cycle and Supply, located at 6915 Market St. in Boardman. This year, the collection will end on December 22, when all of the toys are taken down the road to the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

“They then sort all the toys out, separate them out, wrap them, and they go right to the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning,” she explained.

Steven said, in past years, there have been around 80 to 90 kids staying at the hospital over the holidays. She knows because she was one of those parents in the Emergency Room.

“Last Christmas Eve, I had to take my son in. He got really sick,” she said. “So, we had to go into the ER for the first time, and he actually got to receive one of the items.”

Stevens’ son, Marek, said he was glad to receive a teddy bear while in the hospital. Those are among several items that Stevens collects.

She also explained the toys and books that are the biggest hits.

“Stuff they can do in the room — the coloring books, crayons, craft sets, games, stuff that they can do that’s going to keep them busy,” she said.

And although Stevens is caring for her newborn daughter, she said she is never too busy to help out the kids at the hospital.

“We’re helping out Santa, as my son would tell you,” she said. “We’re helping him out so he can do other things, and we’re doing the work for the hospital.”

All of the toys collected go to the hospital. Those that are not handed out by Santa on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are still given to kids when they visit, the hospital says.

If you would like to donate, you can visit Youngstown Cycle during business hours through December 22.

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