Sunday, November 28, 2021

Person of the Week

Faith Tremblay Pays It Forward with Toy Drive


A lifetime of health challenges has led Faith Tremblay to see the value in showing young patients some support. Her effort, Faith’s Annual Toy Drive, collects toys and raises funds for the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy of Faith Tremblay

A lifetime of health challenges has led Faith Tremblay to see the value in showing young patients some support. Her effort, Faith’s Annual Toy Drive, collects toys and raises funds for the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Faith Tremblay)

The gift of generosity and the blessing of kindness for others can be inherited, and can sometimes be learned from hard experience. Faith Tremblay has both—and her annual Toy Drive for children who have survived critical medical crises like her is set for a record year.

This 18-year-old has endured a host of life-threatening medical issues since she was born, but despite setbacks, her light shines farther than most. Faith’s experiences while hospitalized formed a unique bond between her and her mother Lisa, forging a unique foundation for community service.

Faith has had a constant series of health issues that may have affected her ability to verbalize, her mom Lisa says, but haven’t dampened her spirit or her compassion.

“Faith became incredibly sick in 2016. She spent three weeks at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital right before Christmas... While we were there, we interacted quite closely with the Child Life Program and the Toy Closet, who are constantly doing things for the kids,” says Lisa. “So besides seeing what they do every single day in trying to make the kids feel at home, that they’re comfortable and have enough to do, we also saw what they did for kids around Christmas time. And until you see it, it’s a different ball game. When we saw what they did for these kids it changed everything.”

That compassion led Faith to create Faith’s Toy Drive, which has collected thousands of toys for children in hospital care since its inception in 2017. According to Lisa, it’s considered one of the biggest toy drive in the state and Faith is hoping to claim that distinction again this year.

“When Faith was starting high school, one of the requirements is community service, so we decided then that this was our way to give back,” says Lisa. “It was supposed to be 10 hours of community service. We’re actually closer to 200 hundred hours this year. That’s why this all came about.”

Faith and her mom diligently use social media and their past connections to gather unwrapped toys for the drive. More than 50 local businesses have drop boxes for donations and a host of local celebrities from media and sports have come out to support Faith’s efforts, and this year will be no different. Even the schools are participating this year.

For a family with so much thrust upon them, their resilience was tested even further when Faith’s father and Lisa’s husband died unexpectedly less than two years ago at age 55.

“You appreciate life a lot more. We have truly learned that you live life one day at a time,” says Lisa.

Faith and her mom moved to Madison this past summer to make a fresh start, and that included picking up their pandemic-delayed efforts to collect toys for the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, where Faith has received treatment for most of her life.

“We absolutely love Madison, the community has been very welcoming and supportive. People have been so amazing,” Lisa says.

The struggles of others in that ward full of children affected Faith in a way that most of us would have trouble imagining.

“It’s important to us because Faith has life-long health issues and unfortunately one day she is going to end up back at this hospital, and these people are going to be there for her like they always have. So, that is our aspect of why we need to stay involved,” says Lisa. “If your children are healthy, you need to embrace every moment of that. If they are sick or ever have been sick, then you know exactly what we are talking about. It’s hard enough when your child is in the hospital, but when it’s around the holidays, it is a lot harder.”

Faith is hoping to collect at least 3,000 toys for this drive. Currently they have almost 700 and they need the community to come out and support them on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at What’s Cookin’ in Madison. Donors can drop off toys and make monetary donations. Santa will even make a special appearance this year.

“Everything is appreciated. This toy drive doesn’t end with an amount or a number goal. It is Faith and everyone in Connecticut that made this possible. This is not a small task and you can’t do it on your own,” Lisa says. “We couldn’t do this without the incredible support we receive from everyone.”

This two-day event will culminate the drive’s collection efforts and all of the donations will go directly to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. All monetary donations will go to that organization as well.

Faith has been conducting her toy drive since 2017 and the event has grown every year since, not counting last year when it was postponed due to COVID. Governor Ned Lamont is so impressed that he is expected to issue a proclamation to Faith and drive in the next few weeks.

Faith says that the drive for her boils down to one thing-helping others.

“It makes me happy,” Faith says with a smile.

Faith says that sometimes she can get a bit envious of all the toys that get stacked up on the dining room table, but Lisa and Faith joke that at least it can make the holiday shopping list easier to write.

Faith’s excitement is contagious, with a smile of a truly infectious nature, she beams at the number and style of the toys that have been donated so far.

“Look,” says Faith as she marveled at the table full of donations she was eager to share. “There are Fidgets, water bottles, Play Dough. Look!”

Faith’s Toy Drive will be held over two days, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11 at What’s Cookin’ at 78 Boston Post Road. Donors are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys; especially needed are toys for infants up to two years old and also items for kids aged 16 to 18. Monetary donations and gift cards are also welcomed; make checks out to Child Life Program.

A host of local celebrities will be attending both days of the event. Find more information on the Faith’s Annual Toy Drive Facebook page and at #faithsannualtoydrive2021.



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