Toy drives are commonplace during the holidays, with those small gifts being extra meaningful for children who often go without during the rest of the rest. In New York City, philanthropist and former tech business owner Carol Suchman has always been a generous donor. Usually giving hundreds of toys to give as birthday gifts to foster kids in Brooklyn, Shuman says children have always been her focus.
But this year Suchman did something so heartwarming spectacular that even a city official says he's never seen anything like it.
Suchman bought an entire toy store - full of thousands of toys, stuffed animals and school supplies - and donated it to New York's Department of Homeless Services.
That's a whole lot of Beanie Boos and colouring books - and a whole lot of happy children.
Located in the West Village, Hudson Party Store had gone out of business. Though the windows were papered over and the lights turned off, Suchman's brilliant idea of buying the all the inventory came to her as she walked by the shuttered store, so she contacted the owner.
"When I saw this toy store, I just realized I could do it on a grander scale. We talked and negotiated and bought the entire toy store," Suchman said.
Suchman helped sort and bag the toys, then donated every single one to the Department of Homeless Services.
"I've been doing this for many years and we have many generous sponsors — people do toy drives and do a lot of giving — but I have to say, that this is the first time anybody ever bought out an entire store and donated to the children of shelters," said DHS director of special events Antonio Rodriquez.
Seeing Suchman hands-on in the store and helping out truly shows she's the real deal (rather than cutting a cheque and having everyone else do the work while she gets the glory).
"Children is always my focus. A lot of foster kids get a lot of used things and I realized a lot of them never had a birthday gift that they actually wanted," said Suchman.
At a time of year when most kids are inadvertently focused on what they want for Christmas, this is a great story to share as a gentle reminder that there are kids in the world who don't even have their own bed to sleep in, never mind a tree to tuck a present under. It's truly inspirational. Thank you so much, Carol.
November is Adoption Awareness month, which means for the last few weeks, heartwarming stories of children being reunited with their birth parents have flooded the Internet. One story that caught our attention is part of a holiday marketing campaign by U.S. department store retailer, Kohl’s.
In Kohl’s #AllTogetherNow video, we meet Raymond, a 19 year-old college student who has lived with his adoptive family since he was two years old.
“My adoptive parents have always been super supportive and loving. They gave me everything a kid can hope for,” says Raymond, packing a few things into a bag as he gets ready to meet his birth mother in California.
“But it was always a big mystery...who are my real parents? I just really wanted to know.”
The young man tracked down his grandmother online and called her, admitting he was nervous, but felt better when he did finally speak to her. “When I found out that I had a grandma, I was like, oh my gosh, cookies and all that good stuff that comes with grandmas,” he said.
Raymond’s grandmother connected him with his birth mother, who called the son she never thought she’d see again.
“I was shocked. I was excited. I was crying,” recalls Raymond’s birth mother of their initial phone call after so many years apart. “I knew he would find me one day, I just didn’t know when.”
Despite having so many questions for his birth mother, Raymond admits he didn’t know what to say when they finally did talk on the phone.
Predictably their reunion is a tearful one, with both Raymond and his birth mother talking about the challenges of being together again as a family. His mom admits that they will take it slow, getting together for birthdays and getting to know each other. This is something we appreciate Kohl’s capturing, since we know not all reunions are fairy tales come true.
Raymond reuniting with his birth mother also has a surprising twist: he has a younger sister born 10 years apart...to the very day!
“To have a sister is just the best feeling in the world,” says Raymond, whose little sister feels the same way.
“I’m just happy I got my brother now and I got my family back together,” says the young girl.
While some people are often quick to jump all over marketers for capitalizing on our emotions with viral videos (which I’m sure if you look in a dictionary, it just *might* be the definition), we love that Kohl’s worked to make a family’s dream come true. And we’re pretty sure Raymond and his family will have a Christmas they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Graduating high school is something most of us take for granted. But when 97 year-old Margaret Thome Bekema needed to leave her education behind almost 80 years ago to care for her dying mother and younger siblings, Bekema regretting having to give up her education.
That’s why receiving her honourary high school diploma from Catholic Central High means so much to her. In a special ceremony attended by Bekema’s family and friends at Missouri’s Yorkshire and Stoneridge Manor, the grateful grandmother donned a blue graduation cap - complete with gold honour tassels - as principal Greg Deja handed her her diploma.
The diploma is dated with the year Bekema would have graduated with her friends - 1936.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart,'' said Bekema with tears in her eyes, recalling the circumstances that saw her leaving high school in her junior year. Her mother Katherine had cancer and her three younger siblings needed someone to take care of them. It was a big job and her father needed her help.
"I had to quit school to take over the family. It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends," recalled Bekema, who cooked, cleaned, and made the family’s clothing. Bekema was only 17 at the time, and says leaving school broke her heart.
"She is the type of person that whatever life hands her, she just deals with it very graciously," said Bekema’s daughter Geri Smith.
Though we know that most teens really do have hearts of gold (because we’ve talked about it here on Happy Mummy) and that any Generation Z high schooler would do everything they could do to pitch in and help their families, we especially love this story because of the way Bekema’s friends and family came together to make her dream of earning her high school diploma come true.
"She has been so self-giving all her life," said Sister Maureen Geary, who reached out to Central Catholic to see if they would be able to award Bekema the honourary diploma. Bekema cared for Geary when she was a baby when her mother was ill.
Catholic Central’s principal says that Bekema is an inspiration to the community and that her choices reflect the values the school teachers their students. "Her life has been one of sacrifice and service," said Deja during Bekema’s graduation ceremony last month.
Congratulations Margaret….you’re an inspiration to us, too.
Image Source: YouTube