PAMES Students Collect Toys for Local Charities

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Students at Park Avenue recently conducted a successful toy drive to benefit two nonprofits: Matthew’s Wish and Beautiful Me.

Throughout December, the students collected new, unwrapped toys by placing donation boxes in the school’s lobby. Some of the collected toys went to help fill an 18-wheeler that delivered to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park. Other toys were donated to the Hance Family Foundation’s Beautiful Me project.

Matthew’s Wish is a nonprofit organization inspired by Matthew McKinnon, a 13-year-old who died from a kidney disorder in 2011. Just before his death, Matthew expressed his desire to see a tractor-trailer filled with toys delivered to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, where he received his treatment. His mother has maintained that desire each year since, and the toy drive to fill the 18-wheeler has spread throughout Long Island.

Beautiful Me is a project forged by Jackie and Warren Hance after the tragic deaths of their three children, Emma, Alyson and Katie, on the Taconic Parkway in 2009. Inspired by the three girls, Beautiful Me fosters positive self-esteem as young girls are taught how to think positively about their bodies, their skills and their relationships with others. The toys collected at Park Avenue went to New York City children whose mothers are incarcerated.
    
Erica Bellezza, a fourth-grade teacher at Park Avenue Elementary, and Matthew McKinnon’s cousin helped organize the drive, along with teaching assistant Victoria Litras.