By Morris Seecharan
With the sincere hope that it’s toy drive would bring hope and joy to victims of Superstorm Sandy and kids at hospitals, Sunrise Cricket club pushed to make a difference as they collected over 200 toys during the past 2012 holiday seasons. For most of our kids, the past holiday was bright and happy in many ways.
They received the best gifts, food, drinks, and most importantly stayed in a warm home and with their loving families. However for some children the holiday can be very challenging and stressful. Not all of our children were as fortunate as some was displaced and while some are hospitalized with various illness. Also, the holiday are usually filled with many good moments, some sad, but Superstorm Sandy struck and its devastation left many of our kids displaced without their warm home, a hot meal, proper clothing, hospitalized and most sadly the true spirit of the holidays were snatched away from them. The Sunrise cricket club sponsored by Kaieteur Liberty at 120th street and Liberty and Vidya Bhagwat, members, families, and friends committed to make a difference in kid’s life came together in 2012 reaching out to kids at Jamaica hospital in Queens, Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and Superstorm Sandy victims in Far Rockaway Queens.
The kids at Jamaica hospital were the first to be greeted and received toys as Sunrise members and family on December of 15, 2012 the morning of their team presentation dinner ceremony. As the Sunrise families gathered in the lobby of Jamaica hospital the enthusiasm of its members and the anxiety of their young kids were obvious as time drew closer to go up and reach the kids. Reshmi a coordinator of Jamaica hospital took the Sunrise group who was well prepared to bring comfort and smiles to the ill kids and families. While on the floor Varuna Seecharan the youngest of the Sunrise family handed out the 1st toy a princess Dholl to a 2 year old patient who was ecstatic and as she forget about her illness for that moment. Another remarkable experience was the Sunrise member meeting a young mother who was alone with her four weeks baby. One could see the sorrow and the stress in this young mothers face, but the few minutes that were spent uplifted her spirit and brought comfort. In this case it was not the toys that matters, but the words of comfort and the moment spent with her. Another remarkable moment was being with a four old patient whose mother was there tending to her with another siblings. The patient seems overjoyed seeing Sunrise young kids and receiving her toy. She was content and ready to give up her toy to her little sister present. However, the little sister understands that her ill sister needs the attention and the comfort the most. It is amazing how kids this young understand and care for those who are ill. On a bright note Sunrise was able to make them both happy as they were ready with extra toys for the little sister. Many thanks to Sarah Wassenberg and Reshmi for making Sunrise visit to Jamaica hospital possible.
On December 22 just before Christmas kids and families affected by Superstorm received Toys from Sunrise. We had the opportunely to take our toys and left with churches, or politicians who were all raising toys. Most of the feedback I received was the crowed tend to get out of control while supplies are being handed out so its best to donate your toys to larger organization. However Sunrise members outreach community toy drive is build on meeting the children and their families. And while our congress was too busy playing politics in passing the aid package for families who was stricken by Sandy at Beach 59 and Beach Channel drive caring citizens were dropping off and handing out food, cloths, and toys.
Right next door was a family center with an astonishing long line of families who were desperately looking for help before the holiday. As we place our boxes of toys next to a family handing out food it was very quiet at first, but in a minuet the word spread as many women, sister, mothers, and grandmother came rushing trying to get their children, younger brother/sisters or grand children a piece of toy for Christmas. These families there were polite and orderly and their words of thanks were plentiful. Most amazing was their facial expression of gratitude which spoke more than words knowing they have piece of toys to brighten the children holiday spirit. One important conversation I had with a grandmother who asked for a 2nd piece of toy saying, “I have two grand kids and just can take one piece fo toy” which as was the rule in handing out. Another was a young boy who was jumping for joy after receiving a Nintendo DS game he said, “This is all I wanted for Christmas”. Although these families were unimaginable desperate and stressful situations they were well mannered. On the same day the Fary Rockaway community came together and had Christmas parade with Santa uplifting the spirits of the children in their community.
Disaster struck without warning and it will be a life long experience being among these families devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I would like to share this experience and encourage others to go out and share what you may with victims of Hurricane Sandy who are still desperately in need of help. The fact is when the cameras are around many politicians/organizations are out there showing their faces, but too often when the cameras are gone so are some politicians and organizations. At the end victims of natural disasters tend to become forgotten but caring citizens continued to pour their hearts out and ready to lend a helping hand.
The last stop of Sunrise holiday community outreach was Jacobi hospital in the Bronx where they visited on December 26, 2012 the day after Christmas. It was amazing to experience our members and kids high spirited right after Chrisman day ready to spend time and hand out toys to kids who spend their Christmas in the hospital. One of the first present was handed to young boy who could not wait to open his car and play with it. Another compelling story was of a couple who spent their Christmas in the holiday with their two year old boy. The kid was on top of the world to get his toy while his parent was very grateful that we were there with them with. In the ICU unit was a young four old girl as she was handed a toy tea set she get up and told her mom and her aunt that she was ready to play a tea party game. At that moment we all learned that in tough time we all need comfort, but for kids show them a toy and they will jump for joy and forget their pain and suffering. There are many great moments and stories with these children and their families to share and will be cherished by all our member and kids present for a life time. However most rewarding that in the time of pain and suffering we were able to life the spirit of these kids. We thank Shameer once more for making the connection at Jacobi the staff for making our visit pleasant.
To all our toy drive participants for 2012 Sunrise members, their families, friends, our sponsors, some of my colleges at Scholastic Media we thank you sincerely for making our 2012 toy drive successful. In tough times your family and true friends will be there and Sunrise you stood right there with your family in your community and give them comfort. Most importantly to all the Sunrise kids who participated in going out the hospital and meeting the children, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”. Continue doing the right thing in life and your lives will be fruitful.