For 19 years the Wantagh-based (JTCF) has made its mission to help sick and underprivileged children and their families in times of need, particularly during the holiday season. The JTCF is now holding its annual holiday toy drive and tonight at will host the charity's .
John Theissen, a Wantagh native who now resides in Seaford, was hospitalized at age 17 with a brain tumor. According to Theissen's mother, Roberta, he was inspired by a young girl named Tasha during his time in the hospital.
Tasha did not have much family support while she was ill but still kept her high spirits. When Santa gave her a toy at the hospital's Christmas party she told him she wanted to give it to her friend upstairs. Theissen was touched, and once he was out of the hospital he was determined to help needy children just like Tasha.
"The story still gets me 22 years later," Roberta said, with tears in her eyes.
This year's toy drive is in honor and memory of Lucas Goldbaum. He was one of many children that JTCF worked with since their diagnosis. Goldbaum passed away early this year.
"This is only the second time since we started that we've had it in memory of a child," said Theissen, a MacArthur High School graduate. "He showed us so much courage from his fight."
In its first year, the toy drive raised nearly 1,000 toys that were distributed through local hospitals. Today Theissen gathers somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 toys during the holiday season. Donations from local schools, community members and local restaurants all contribute to his holiday fundraising.
"We get a great response from the Wantagh schools and the local community," said Theissen.
Although the people at JTCF are especially generous during the holiday season, their kind efforts continue all year round. Theissen and his wife have a back-to-school drive where they provide school supplies, clothing and any other necessary items to needy children and their families.
Nearly every weekend excluding the holiday months, Theissen hosts parties at his foundation in Wantagh for sick children, and those who cannot afford the toys they'd like to have. Playstations and other gaming systems are set up (all donated from local businesses and residents), along with televisions, movies, computers and a large selection of unique toys for the children to enjoy.
"I am proud to know that in 19 years, we have never said no to a child," Theissen said.
The toy drive began in mid-November and will run every Saturday and Sunday for the month of December. The Annual Gala at Mulcahy's begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. and will be hosted by WFAN sports radio host Mike Francesa and WBAB personalities Roger and JP, with special guest appearance by former New York Yankees pitcher David Wells.
For further information on the toy drive or gala call 516-679-TOYS or log onto http://www.jtcf.org.