Dawson Babiak, 12, and his family are no strangers to Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Not only is Babiak a cancer survivor, but he and his family are gift donors, too.
They deliver massive amounts of toys to the children’s hospital every holiday season—toys donated by friends and families from the Hopkins and Wayland areas.
They call it the Epic Toy Drive.
The seventh-grader and his family have pulled together the annual donation every year for seven years, with more than $5,000 worth of toys donated this year.
“It’s so great to see kids doing well and giving back after treatment,” said Amy Davis, manager of Child and Family Life at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
On Monday, friends and family wearing Santa hats and elf and reindeer costumes helped unload the caravan of half a dozen vehicles that were bursting at the seams with boxes and bags of toys.
“We love putting this together every year,” Jason Babiak, Dawson’s father, said. “It really has become a holiday tradition for our family and the entire community.”
Diagnosed with cancer in November 2014, Dawson is now in remission and just had his final doctor’s appointment with the cancer team.
“He’s one year away from being declared cancer-free,” Jason said, a tear in his eye.
While their family was at the hospital for Dawson’s treatment, toys and activities kept their spirits high.
“Dawson got gifts all through the holiday season when he was here,” Jason said. “There were days when he couldn’t even get out of bed. I remember him getting a set of window markers from Child Life. And it was just enough to get him out of bed … to draw. It was amazing.”
The toy drive means a lot to his family and the entire community, Jason said.
“It gives people hope,” he said.
The Babiak family hopes to continue these efforts every holiday season.
“It is difficult enough to raise a child,” Jason said. “Imagine having a child in the hospital going through serious adult-like illnesses. Any help at all is appreciated.”
It’s a gift to have families like Dawson’s involved at the hospital, said Greg Bird, hospital teacher and school liaison at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
“For kids who are stuck in the hospital during the holidays, it means a lot to know that people are thinking and caring about you,” he said. “And not just for the holidays, but all throughout the year.”