Photo Credit: Daphne Ong
SHRINERS: (from left to right) Seniors Laura Carasimu, Mary Arakelyan, Edward Nadurata play with a patient at Shriners Children’s Hospital. ASB and ACSY delivered donated presents to the patients on Jan. 12.
By: Agnessa Kasumyan
In the spirit of community work—and not just the holidays—Associated Student Body (ASB) and American Cancer Society Youth (ACSY) members delivered dozens of toys to Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles on Jan.12.
Though ASB and ACSY had collaborated for the Toys for Tots event two years ago and collected donations in previous years, it was the first time ACSY members actually hand-delivered the toys.
ACSY president Edward Nadurata felt that being personally involved would be a more “touching” and “humbling” experience.
Nadurata began contacting hospitals in early December. He first sought out Children’s Hospital in Hollywood; however, he and ASB President Mary Arakelyan decided to work with Shriners because it was the only facility that would allow them to interact with patients rather just dropping off the gifts and leaving.
It took members about a month to gather enough donations. Though they weren’t short, Arakelyan recalls more involvement and donations from students during previous years.
ASB Director of Athletics Laura Carasimu (’12) was actually hesitant about directly delivering the toys since she wasn’t sure what their reaction would be.
“I was a little nervous, but when the kids saw us come in with a cart full of toys, their faces lit up,” she said. “Knowing that we made them happy was the best feeling in the world—nothing can match it.”
Sandra Christian, the adoptive parent of a nine-year old patient, felt that ASB’s and ACSY’s involvement was very “good” for the community. Her son, who suffers from Arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that doesn’t allow him to bend his hands or knees, had been in and out of the hospital throughout December.
After picking a collection of Power Rangers because the “green one” is his “favorite,” he bonded with senior ACSY officers Daphne Ong, Arjina Boodaghian, and Evelyna Vartanians.
Vartanians felt that getting to interact with the patients personally, especially Christian’s son, made the experience more personal.
“[It] reminded me again of how lucky I am to have my health,” she said. “It also gave me a chance to learn about new diseases I had never heard of.”
Christian and her husband James did not know much about their son’s condition. They sought treatment at Children’s Hospital in Orange County, but the doctors there were not familiar with the condition. It was not until they were at a local restaurant when a Shriners’ employee noticed them and informed them of their services.
Shriners is a nonprofit organization that provides free orthopedic, cleft-lip and severe burn treatment and prosthetic surgery for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.
At the hospital, James and Sandra were able to provide their son with the treatment and medicine they needed. They were actually preparing to check out of the hospital and head back home to 14 of their other adoptive kids as the toys were being delivered.
After hand-delivering the gifts, ASB and ACSY students were taken to a game room at the hospital that was equipped with a wide screen television, a pool table, and games age-appropriate for patients who range from their early adolescent years to their late teens. They played pool with one of the older patients and helped out a young girl with her new Play-Doh set.
According to Jamira Lindo, a recreational therapist at the hospital who runs the toy drive event every year, most of the children come from low-income families or from foreign countries so “it brightens up their day” and they are “very appreciative” of the gifts.
“As students, we feel obligated to put time into organizing these kinds of events,” Arakelyan said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”