Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy gets its own toy story

By: Terry Oparka | All | Published December 21, 2017

 Jessica Prucknic, an “elf” for the Bottomless Toy Chest, helps Cash Constanzo, 5, pick out a toy as part of the Tons of Toys program at Detroit Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy Dec. 18.

Jessica Prucknic, an “elf” for the Bottomless Toy Chest, helps Cash Constanzo, 5, pick out a toy as part of the Tons of Toys program at Detroit Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy Dec. 18.

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — Ashley Osborne didn’t expect that her son, Griffin Galligan, almost 2, would get to pick out a toy when she took him for a follow-up visit with a specialist at Detroit Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy Dec. 18.

The Bottomless Toy Chest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, surprised children coming in for treatment that day with brand-new toys as part of its Tons of Toys program.

The toys were wrapped in clear cellophane, so children could see what the toys were, to protect the pediatric patients’ compromised immune systems and so children could open the gifts. The pediatric patients and their siblings could also do craft projects with members of the organization.

Elise Bennett, director of marketing at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy, explained that the children get outpatient treatment, as well as rehabilitation services, at the facility from doctors specializing in oncology and other fields.

“It’s really cool they did this,” said Osborne, who is from Grand Blanc. “I had no idea this was going on.”

The Bottomless Toy Chest has been providing toys for the holidays and throughout the year to medical facilities since Mickey Guisewite founded the organization in 2007.

Starting with DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Detroit, the organization has expanded and now provides over 30,000 toys and activities year-round at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Detroit, as well as toys for the holidays at 11 pediatric cancer centers statewide and in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Kentucky.

This is the first year the Tons of Toys program has visited DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy for the holiday season.

Guisewite, a Bloomfield Hills resident, said she founded the organization after her son, Jack DeCerchio, now 22 and doing well, was diagnosed with an aggressive stage 4 leukemia “out of the blue.”

“He went from being completely healthy to being very sick,” Guisewite said. She said her son was hospitalized for seven months. “I found the more I could do to keep him engaged, the better he responded to treatment,” she said.

She said she saw some children who went through their cancer treatments alone because their parents had to work to ensure their children had health care.

“It’s a very scary time (for families),” she said.

Guisewite said she wanted to empower the children in the hospital with toys, and she started to collect toys from friends and family members in her basement, which grew to become the Bottomless Toy Chest.

“Who doesn’t like to open presents?” Guisewite said. “A lot of kids aren’t able to use hospital playrooms. It’s very difficult to be in a hospital environment. We want to create positive feelings … and the idea that a hospital can be a positive place.”

Ashley Leslie, program director for the Bottomless Toy Chest, said she really enjoys bringing a smile to the kids’ faces during the holidays. “It makes my day,” she said.

Rochester resident Janet Lombardi was at the clinic with her daughter Maria, now 24, Dec. 18. Lombardi said her daughter was rushed to DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Detroit immediately following her birth for emergency surgery, and she continues to see pediatric specialists.

She said her daughter, as a young patient, was struck with how some children did not have as many visitors or toys in their rooms as others.

“She asked, ‘Can I give them one of my toys?’” Lombardi said. “She wanted them to have something. Bottomless Toy Chest is really neat for these kids.”
For more information or to donate to the Bottomless Toy Chest, visit bottomlesstoychest.org.