Volunteer Spotlight: Halisha's Toy Chest
What started as a coping mechanism for David and Donna Isaacs has turned into one of the most generous recurring toy donations received monthly at Golisano Children’s Hospital. The Isaacs lost their daughter, Halisha, in 1995 at age ten. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the age of 2 and was in and out of the hospital for eight years. The Isaacs recall some of her happiest moments in the children’s hospital were when she was playing with the other children in the hospital.
“Halisha would always find a way to share her toys with the other kids,” said David. “She loved giving the other children her duplicate Happy Meal toys and stickers. She would always spread happiness.”
Although Halisha is gone, her legacy is still felt through Halisha’s Toy Chest. Led by the Isaacs, Halisha’s Toy Chest has a sole purpose of donating stuffed animals, hot wheels, playing cards and bubbles to kids like Halisha at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Started in 1995, the group has donated tens of thousands of toys to children admitted into pediatric imaging, emergency department, and surgery.
“When this all started 22 years ago, I used to buy out all the discounted stuffed animals and Hot Wheels in stores. After major holidays I would run all over town and buy out each store,” said David. “It got to the point where they would call me the day before a big sale because they knew how much this effort meant to me.”
The Isaacs were so devoted that family trips and vacations would lead to toy stores. David recalls one particular venture to Atlantic City, where he had visited a store three days in a row trying to bargain on a fair price for 750 stuffed animals. After a few conversations with the store manager, he was able to negotiate a deal for all of the stuffed animals. They’ve since converted their basement into a toy storage center where items are sorted and packaged prior to a monthly donation.
“The Isaacs are a great friend of Golisano Children’s Hospital,” said Wendy Lane, Child Life Coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “They have turned something devastating into a wonderful memorial for their daughter. It’s donations like Halisha’s Toy Chest’s that keep smiles on our children’s faces year-round.”
David and Donna have also been volunteering on the organizational committee of Stroll for Strong Kids for 15 years. After they wrap up volunteering in the morning, they walk with their team, appropriately named Halisha’s Toy Chest, as a way of bringing the family together. David also spends time every Tuesday and Thursday morning volunteering in Patient Discharge through Friends of Strong.
“Volunteering and giving back is something we love to do in her memory,” said David.
The kids at Golisano Children’s Hospital are fortunate to have so many wonderful donors, like the Isaacs family.