Looking at her, you would never think Erin Puck, a vivacious, energetic twenty-one-year-old senior in college, has ever had a sick day in her life. But when she was just twelve years old she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor that would require surgery, six weeks of radiation therapy and thirty-six weeks of chemotherapy.
It was during her prolonged hospital stay that the moment came that changed Erin’s life. Returning to her room after a medical procedure, Erin found a toy left on her bed. A family had donated it and left a note that said simply, “We care about you.” Moved by this selfless act of kindness, Erin knew what she wanted to do: start a fund-raiser to donate toys to the pediatric floor of the hospital. She discovered that the act of giving actually helped her feel better and that toys really did have a calming effect on the children in hospital. This was the grassroots beginning of Toys.Calm, a nonprofit program designed to ease the anxiety of ailing children in local hospitals through the anonymous distribution of toys and laptops.
Because Erin knows firsthand the anxiety of showing appreciation when sick and the importance of respecting a child’s privacy during treatment, Toys.Calm operates with a "No Thanks Required" policy. Individuals such as nurses and social workers already familiar to the child are responsible for distributing the items. Although Erin rarely gets to see where the toys end up, being the founder does have its perks—the toy shopping sprees are great fun!
To date, with the help of Erin’s family and a few volunteers, Toys.Calm has delivered over 200,000 toys to a number of area hospitals as well as in Philadelphia and New York. Toys.Calm has also raised money for larger items such as air hockey tables and more than 100 laptop computers.