With the hustle of the day-to-day, it is often easy to be caught up in what we all have going on in our lives. It’s easy to forget that many people have more challenging things they are dealing with.
Here in the Koz Family, we’re always looking for ways to have a positive impact on our patients, their families and on the lives of those in our surrounding communities; it’s who we are.
That’s probably why last December when Ryan asked for a donation of our deliciously scented ChapSticks and shared his story with us, it touched our hearts immensely! This year we wanted to help Ryan with his efforts to bring smiles to the faces of children fighting cancer and their families. It truly is so difficult to put into words how wonderful this young man is so we had him help us! It is well worth the read!
So let us introduce you to this amazing young man; meet Ryan!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
A: I am in 6th grade at Sacred Heart School. I absolutely love cars. I am a Boy Scout, on my school Cross Country team, and the leader of my Lego Robotics Team. I also play the trumpet and the piano.
Q: Tell us what it is that you are doing to give back:
A: I am trying to give back by supplying children that are in the hospitals during the holidays; arts and craft supplies, small Lego sets, and other small toys that can be easily played with on a tray table. I also collect gift cards, crossword puzzle books, and decks of cards for the teenagers that are hospitalized. For the past two years, I have also collected scented ChapStick after a request came in from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The scented ChapStick is used on face masks that administer the medicine. Many children do not like the smell of the medicine but the scented ChapStick helps cover up the terrible smell.
Q: Tell us how you started doing this, when, and what inspired you:
A: I started doing this four years ago when I was in 2nd grade. I had recently lost my Great Grandfather to cancer and I was feeling sad. At the same time, I heard about a kid in my old school that had cancer. I woke my parents up one night as I couldn’t sleep. I knew I wanted to do something to help cancer patients but I didn’t know exactly what. My initial plan was to collect stuffed animals for them but my mom’s friend is a Pediatric oncologist at Connecticut Children’s Hospital and she told us that they were in great need of coloring books and markers. It all began that year when I asked my teacher Ms. Robbins if I could send a letter home with the kids and put a collection box in her classroom. She agreed and all my friends were so generous. I also went around to local businesses such as Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS and they donated. The best part was the monetary donations that came in from my family and friends. I took that money and hit the clearance racks to get the best deal and therefore more arts and craft supplies. I will never forget finding small heart notebooks on sale for 10 cents each; I cleared the shelves! I collected so many things that first year that I decided to donate to three hospitals – Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Yale New Haven hospital in New Haven, and Saint Jude’s hospital in Tennessee. I realized how happy I was to give when I took some of the donations that I collected and made a care package for the boy in my school that had cancer and some for his sister too. I left the donations on his sister’s desk in school and I knew it was something I would continue to do.
I continued my toy drive the following year and donated again to the three hospitals. When I was in 4th grade, my mom shared with me Madeline Guarraia’s story and her amazing toy drive. We reached out to the person helping Madeline and asked if we could help. My principal at Sacred Heart agreed to let me have a donation bin at the school and I sent a letter home with the students. Soon, my sister and I were emptying the box every day! We delivered the donations we collected that year in Madeline’s name to help her. Sadly, Madeline has passed away but I will continue to think of her every year when I collect donations.
Last year, I expanded the hospitals that I donate to and I took some donations to Lawrence and Memorial hospital in New London and to the Pequot Emergency room.
Q: Which hospitals/centers do you do this for?
A: I’ve donated to CCMC, Yale, St. Jude’s out in Tennessee and Lawrence and Memorial hospital. I hope to expand to Hasbro Hospital in Providence and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Q: Who else helps you make this happen?
A: My parents, grandparents, and my sister have been a great help over the years, along with friends and extended family. Many local businesses have also been a great support. My school, Sacred Heart has been great about helping me. Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS have all donated and the Groton UPS has shipped out donations to St. Jude’s for free! I have to thank Kozlowski Orthodontics for helping me on a whole new level this year! Last year they generously donated scented ChapStick but this year they are letting me put donation boxes in their offices and helping me spread the word on their social media pages! I know that with their help, this is going to be my biggest year yet! Let’s put smiles on lots of kid’s faces!
Q: What would you say to people reading this on how they can help you to make an even bigger impact this year?
A: What I would say is “Help me to put a smile on the face of every kid that is stuck in the hospital this Christmas!” You can help me by organizing your own small toy drive in your school, church, business or neighborhood and drop off your donations at Kozlowski Orthodontics at 156 Boston Post Road in East Lyme or at 190 Hempstead Street in New London. I will organize it all and deliver them to the different hospitals or you can drop off your individual donations to the offices in East Lyme or New London. Kozlowski Orthodontics is my donation site. Any donation big or small is appreciated. We are especially interested in donations of arts and craft supplies, coloring books, markers, crayons, small games and card games, small Lego sets, cool socks or slippers, and scented ChapStick. Think anything that can be easily played with on a hospital tray table. I ask that you also keep in mind the older pre-teens and teens that are in the hospital. Many times they are overlooked but they love makeup sets, nail sets, Amazon, and I-tune gift cards, and books. Please make sure that all items are new due to the low immune systems of many of the patients.
Q: How are you so awesome already at such a young age?
A: My family and I all had different answers to this question! It made us laugh as we joked about good genes. All jokes aside, doing this makes me happy. The holidays are always a busy time of year but doing this helps my whole family focus on what is important.
Q: What are your dreams for when you grow up?
A: When I grow up I see myself racing or designing cars.
Q: Tell us about your Lego League!
A: I am the leader of a First Lego League robotics group. In FLL, there is a different theme each year where you have to find a solution to different world problems. This year it’s all about water and we have chosen to come up with a real world, cost efficient way to get clean drinking water to remote villages in Haiti. Our design has a real possibility of being used in Haiti which is very exciting! We are in need of small sponsorships if any business would like to support our efforts. Even a small amount helps and is appreciated.
From our hearts to yours this holiday season, let’s all join together and spread the word about Ryan’s amazing efforts. We will be collecting donations in the New London and East Lyme offices though 12/9 so that Ryan and his wonderful helpers have time to sort and distribute the donations by Christmas.
Dr. Jeff and the Koz team