OLD BRIDGE – An Old Bridge teen collected almost 500 toys for children at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.
Madison Szumera collected 383 toys on one day, and then an additional 86 toys, for a total of 469 gifts donated to the New Brunswick children’s hospital in time for Christmas.
Every October, the 14-year-old begins preparing for her annual holiday toy drive, her mother Dineen said.
“Inspired by Superstorm Sandy, she started her toy drive in 2012 while she was in Kindergarten. Her motivation was to give back to the people who lost everything during the storm. Children lost their homes, toys and personal belongings. She wanted to ensure that those children were able to receive new toys in replacement of the things that they lost in the storm and to make sure that they felt a sense of normalcy and joy during the holiday season,” Dineen Szumera said.
In the first two years, Madison donated the toys she collected to the RAINE Foundation and the following year, she donated to Operation Jersey Shore Santa. Both of these foundations made sure that the toys were given to families who were impacted by the destruction of the storm, Dineen Szumera said.
However, for the subsequent years, Madison started donating to Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital because in 2015, her childhood friend, Ryan, passed away. He was a 9-year-old boy who lost his battle with cancer.
“With the destruction of Hurricane Sandy having subsided, her new goal was to make sure that children who were unhealthy or in the hospital were as happy as possible during the holidays. Madison wanted to do something that had the potential to put a smile on every child’s face. With the help of social media platforms, family, friends, neighbors and her school, St. Benedict [in Holmdel], she has collected hundreds of toys and each year, the donations increase,” Dineen Szumera said.