By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For 5-year-old Amelia Daliga of Bristol, all she wants this holiday season is to make young patients smile at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
Late last month, Amelia decided to start her own toy drive after thinking about children who may not be able to come home for the holidays due to illness or other medical issues.
What started out as a project among her family, friends, and neighbors turned into a community-wide effort to bring joy to hospitalized children during the holidays.
As the message of Amelia’s initiative spread on social media, more people reached out, including more than 60 families from other communities, including Plainville, Southington, Avon and Farmington, as well as Cheshire, New Britain and Unionville.
Before the drive even ended Dec. 15, Amelia collected at least eight full boxes of donations, which included an assortment of items from board games and puzzles to dolls to craft sets.
Amelia, who enjoys visiting new places and meeting new people, delivered the donations to the hospital this week.
Amelia’s mother, Justyna Daliga, said her daughter became more excited every time they filled a new box, expressing how surprised she felt with the large turnout.
“I am speechless and humbled by the turnout,” said Justyna. “Never in my mind have I pictured Amelia being able to bring these many toys to the children at CCMC.”
Currently a kindergarten student at Greene-Hills School, Amelia’s classmates and teacher, as well as other staff and students have supported her cause. After the support of the school principal, Amelia and her teacher Diane Vita created and hung posters throughout the school, and distributed a flyer about the toy drive to students. They also spread the word about the drive on the school’s website. Since then, Amelia has received an outpouring of support from the entire Greene-Hills community, as students and staff dropped off toys in a box outside her classroom.
In addition, Pastor Chris DeArman, who volunteers at Greene-Hills School, also joined Amelia’s cause by collecting toys from his parishioners at Valley Community Baptist Church.
Calling her student “a kind-hearted person” who is always concerned for others, Vita said she jumped on board with Amelia’s idea when she heard about it. Vita said she is amazed by the level of support the drive has received from the entire community, and hopes it teaches other students “just to be kind.”
“Once you hear about the cause, it touches your heart,” said Vita. “It’s that selfless act of just giving without expecting anything back. It’s truly contagious to be kind to others.”
For Amelia, the drive hit home, as her younger brother was hospitalized at CCMC for several days at five-weeks old. Justyna said that experience may have sparked an interest for Amelia to give back to children at CCMC, especially since they return there to see a specialist once in a while.
The drive also hit home for Amelia’s neighbor Cheryl Genovese. Recalling how her granddaughter spent five to seven days at CCMC this past April, Genovese did not think twice before donating two stuffed teddy bears to Amelia’s collection.
“It touched home and I was happy to help,” said Genovese, adding how she was not surprised Amelia came up with the idea. “She has that heart of giving.”