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Children's Hospital LA in need of toys

December 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
You'd be amazed at how much a new toy can make a sick child stuck in the hospital feel better. But this year, toy donations are way down at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.Imaginary play with Barbie dolls helps 11-year-old Angelica and 9-year-old Jenny Ramirez get through monotonous and sometimes painful hospital stays.

"We're here mostly the whole day doing nothing and when we get the toys then we start making up stories," said Jenny.

The Ramirez sisters have cystic fibrosis, and are at Children's Hospital L.A. several weeks at a time. The toys they receive from volunteers help them feel like children, not patients.

"What these toys do for them is it allows them to be children in a very difficult situation," said Wendi Kellaris, director of volunteer services for Children's Hospital L.A.

The hospital hands out about 80,000 toys year round. But this holiday season, toy donations ran dry.

"We were not going to be able to do Christmas for our patients and that so worried us," said Kellaris.

In the month of December alone, hospital volunteers hand out 15,000 to 20,000 presents to patients. Hundreds of kids will be spending their holidays at the hospital, but the need for presents doesn't end there.

Toys are delivered on patients' birthdays and after painful procedures.

"We barely had 1,000 toys when we put out the cry for help," said Kellaris.

Many people have heard about the toy shortage and are answering the call.

"It's the holiday season and even though they are from Compton, our class decided that we really wanted to do a toy drive for those who are less fortunate," said Toni Wilson of Cesar Chavez High School.

After hearing about the toy drive and the need for additional gifts, Wells Fargo presented the volunteer program with a $25,000 check.

"This is going to help us sustain the program," said Kellaris.

Jenny and Angelica are in the hospital so much, their mom Nancy became a volunteer. She sees how the toys help her daughters, and they're grateful.

"Thank you because this helps many kids," said Jenny. "Sometimes their parents aren't here with them and they have to find some other things to do so they can feel like they're any other kid."

Generous folks have been driving in and dropping off toys at the back of the hospital on Vermont and De Longpre avenues. Children's Hospital L.A. will be accepting toys on Saturday, Dec. 18, and Sunday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also find out how to donate toy and gift cards on the hospital's website.

The hospital is located at 4650 Sunset Blvd.