June 25 marked six months until Christmas, and some folks are thinking about gifts for kids - specifically, those suffering from pediatric cancer. And cookies may help the cause.
In 2016, one of Melissa Jumper's triplets, Zayden, passed away two days before they turned 4. The Jumpers knew from their experience of doctors' offices and overnights in children's hospitals that those battling cancer still enjoy playing and benefit from having activities to do while stuck inside. This inspired Jumper to start Zayden's Toy Drive.
By December 2016, Jumper and helpers had collected enough toys and donations to deliver a packed 15-foot U-Haul truck to OU's The Children's Hospital Child Life Department for oncology children. Also delivered were 11 Radio Flyer wagons, which are used to transport the children around the hospital. With the $2,730 in donations, the group was able to purchase four Xbox One consoles and two 32-inch TVs.
"In December 2017, we expanded our outreach to St. Francis Children's Hospital and to OU Children's Hospital," said Jumper. "We delivered a 20-foot enclosed car hauler trailer full of toys to each hospital; five wagons to Saint Francis and eight wagons to OU; and collected $1,300 in donations that was used to purchase a desktop computer for children in the St. Jude Clinic at St. Francis."
The next year, Zayden's Toy Drive was able to collect enough to fill two 12-foot enclosed trailers with toys for both hospitals, and collected $800, which was used to buy more toys and games. Two wagons each were delivered to OU and St. Francis.
The toy drive expanded in 2019, bringing in donations from Tulsa, Muskogee, Adair, Payne, Mayes, and Cherokee counties. Toys and donations were collected by car clubs, bike rallies, and colleges across the state, including Northeastern State University.
"We have had outstanding support making the holidays and the months after tolerable for children battling pediatric cancer," said Jumper. "We are now kicking off 2020. We will be doing our best to make it the biggest blessing yet."
Zayden's Toy Drive is kicking off the toy collection and fundraising with the "Be a Good Cookie" event on Thursday, July 9, 4-7 p.m., in the Chili's parking lot in Tahlequah.
"We are hoping with the pandemic the Toy Drive 2020 will not be affected, but be the most amazing yet," said Jumper. "I hope Tahlequah will join us to honor the children fighting and remember the children who have passed from cancer by supporting this great cause."
Through Cookies for Kids' Cancer, Jumper will have cookies for sale at the event.
"I will have packaged cookies. The company is shipping me a fresh order, prepackaged to prevent handling and the spread of COVID-19," said Jumper. "I've joined them in an online fundraiser. You can order cookies for all occasions and have them sent to anyone across the U.S. The proceeds go to research for pediatric cancer."
Cookies for Kids' Cancer provides annual research grants to seven of the nation's leading pediatric cancer centers to advance the development of new, improved, and less toxic treatments for children battling cancer. The partners are: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Texas Children's Cancer Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and University of California San Francisco. As of 2013, a portion of funds raised by Cookies for Kids' Cancer is used to match, dollar for dollar, the federal allowance per child enrolled in the Children's Oncology Group's Phase I and Pilot Consortium.
According to www.cookiesforkidscancer.org, the National Cancer Institute's federal budget was $4.6 billion. Of that, breast cancer received 12 percent, prostate cancer received 7 percent, and all 12 major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than 3 percent.
The giant, drivable red wagon dedicated to Zayden will also be set up at the Tahlequah event, and new, unwrapped items for the kids will be accepted. Children of all ages have cancer, so the drive isn't limited to toys for little kids. Donations can include craft items, art sets, DVDs, music players, gift cards, and more. Donations of items and money can also be mailed to 26001 S. 530 Road, Park Hill, OK 74451; funds can be sent to the account at Bank of Cherokee County; and items can be purchased from the "Zaydens Toy Drive 2020" Amazon wish list.
You can help
For a link to the Cookies for Kids' Cancer and more information about Zayden's Toy Drive, visit www.facebook.com/WagonZaydens.