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Toy mission builds on legacy of cancer patient

Joey Doolittle’s parents, Tom and Kim, helped their son begin the
Joey’s Toy Box effort in the weeks before he died in July 2008.
UMNS photos by Lori Johnston.

By Lori Johnston*
August 19, 2009 | ATLANTA (UMNS)

Nine-year-old Raman Franklin heads to a special closet and picks out a toy after treatments at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Patient Raman Franklin selects free
toys to take home after treatments
at Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

On a recent day, a doctor’s kit helps ease the pain.

“There’s a ton to choose from,” he says. “They make me feel happy and good.”

That was the hope of another 9-year-old child, Joey Doolittle, who worried about the dwindling items in the toy closet when he was a cancer patient. Joey, who died from cancer in July 2008, asked his mom, “Would people give money to a little kid?”

His effort to raise money to purchase more toys for patients has continued in the year since his death. Friends and members of Joey’s church, Cornerstone United Methodist, just outside Atlanta, have raised more than $30,000 and donated an estimated $30,000 worth of toys.

The first fundraiser for Joey’s Toy Box in 2008 raised $1,800.

“Joey counted the money and we were shopping by that evening,” says his mom, Kim Doolittle. “He made the delivery on June 13 and passed on July 4, so he never got to see a child receive a toy. He knew he left me with a full-time job.”

Volunteer Cindy Hunter (left), Joey Doolittle’s brother, Robby, and aunt
Marcy Doolittle sort through recent
toy donations at Cornerstone
United Methodist Church.

Games, action figures and other playthings have been donated to three Atlanta hospitals as well as a facility in Dallas. Church members have collected toys, gift cards and money and sponsored two cancer patients and their families at Christmas.

“When I think about Joey, I think of toys and fun,” says Cindy Hunter, a member of Cornerstone United Methodist Church and family friend. “We raised money through yard sales, cookouts . . . and then our Sunday school class has helped do numerous things.”

That included sharing Joey’s story—and the toy effort—with others who Hunter says wanted to join Joey’s family and the church in caring for young patients they didn’t know.

Although members of the church and community who make the donations don’t see the impact on the children, Karen McCarthy does. The hospital’s “treasure chest,” as she calls it, helps the young patients endure shots and painful treatments.

“I wish they could see what I see every day of just a smile on a kid’s face that there’s a toy that they get to choose from,” says McCarthy, a child life specialist at Aflac Cancer Center.

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Patients and their families are impressed the effort was started by a child, supported by his church.

“For a little boy to say, ‘I know how I felt being here and wanting some enjoyment and wanting to feel good while I was here,’ that just makes it all the more meaningful,” says Raman’s mom, Josette Franklin.

Kim Doolittle believes the effort allows people to continue to remember Joey as a carefree, happy-go-lucky boy with a heart for others.

“Toys meant a lot to him and they got him through a lot, and watching toys come in and being able to give those toys to kids, that keeps his spirit alive,” she says.

*Johnston is a freelance journalist based in Watkinsville, Ga.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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Joey’s Toy Box

Cornerstone United Methodist Church

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