Hesperia teen's legacy lives on through toy drive to help sick children

Denise Dador Image
Friday, December 15, 2023
Hesperia teen's legacy lives on through Spark of Love toy drive
The Adan Strong Foundation brings toys - and joy - to sick children in honor of a Hesperia teen who died of leukemia.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In the 31 years since ABC7's Spark of Love drive has been around, it's inspired thousands of families and nonprofits to join the cause.

Bringing joy to his fellow young cancer patients meant a lot to one local teen. Now his mom hopes his story will ignite a spark of love in others.

"My son would always say, Mom, when I get better, I want to help out kids," said Mariela Muñoz, founder and CEO of the Adan Strong Foundation.

Hesperia teen Adan Muñoz was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia right before his senior year.

Despite months of treatment, he was determined to graduate. In 2022, ABC7 Eyewitness News was there when he did.

"Adan was a great kid. Adan was a very thoughtful, unselfish teenager who was full of life," Muñoz said.

And full of empathy for every pediatric cancer patient he met. He often told his mom how he felt.

"It's not fair. You know, they're younger than me. And I could only imagine how they feel," she said.

After fighting with everything he had, Adan succumbed to leukemia in April.

But his legacy at City of Hope Children's Cancer Center - the hospital he spent so much time in - lives on.

This is the first holiday season that the nonprofit Adan Strong is partnering with Spark of Love to fulfill a mission Adan felt so passionate about.

"He would have the biggest smile on his face and say that he was proud," Muñoz said.

Eleven-year-old Juan Carlos Castro has been fighting leukemia since 2019. He told us he likes the toys, but he enjoys the company more.

"It makes me feel happy because now I get a visit," he said.

Young Brandon Keo picked out toys for his siblings. He's recovering from a transplant to treat a rare blood disorder called thalassemia. His mother said small joys like this go a long way.

"I cannot say enough things. It's amazing. It's amazing," said Leaklena Keo of Long Beach.

Most amazed is Adan's mom because with every gift given, she sees her son in action.

"It's overwhelming. Because it's all Adan's work. You know, we're just the hands that are helping out," Muñoz said.

Adan Strong volunteers will hand out toys and gift cards throughout the holidays. Every donation goes back to the kids. Muñoz said the goal is not just to provide support to patients, but to their families as well. It's exactly what Adan wanted.

"He's looking down and he's proud. He's proud of us and he's so thankful to everybody that has made this happen," she said.