A 25-year veteran of the Riverdale Police Department collected toys last Christmas, intending it to be a one-time event to benefit sick children stuck at an Oak Lawn hospital during the holiday season.
Yet Dan Dempsey said the response he received to his toy drive in 2012 overwhelmed him to the point where he’s doing it again this year, and has hopes it will become something he does every year.
“Absolutely,” Dempsey said. “The response I got was so positive that I want to keep doing this. People are so willing to help if they’re given the chance.”
Dempsey has businesses throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicago south suburbs collecting toys and other contributions for him. On Dec. 21, he plans to take the toys and cash and split them between the Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation in Highland.
Dempsey, who is a Highland resident, said he added the foundation to his list of recipients because, “I want to keep some of the benefits in the area.”
But he has a personal tie to the Oak Lawn-based hospital after his teenage son, Bobby, received treatment there for leukemia. During his time visiting the hospital, he saw how much young children enjoyed the toy room, and realized the room could use more items.
But Dempsey also is seeking donations of gift cards, which he said are more appropriate gifts for older children. He says he seeks donation of items for people ages 2 to 16.
Last year, Dempsey collected some 2,000 toys and gift cards totaling $3,000. He said he hopes to match that figure this year, adding that during his first week of collections last week, he already had $1,000 worth of gift cards.
He noted some people had contributed cards valid at gas stations, which he gives to the parents.
“With gas prices being what they are, this can help them with all the trips they make to see their children,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey will collect all donations on Friday.
People wishing to contribute toys or gift cards to Dempsey’s effort can drop items off at the Quizno’s sandwich shop, 9270 Wicker Ave. in St. John; Nick’s Cigarette City, 262 Joliet St. in Dyer; All State Insurance, 1467 Joliet St. in Dyer; Salon Capellani, 2152 45th St. in Highland; and Brant Construction, 7651 Harvest Drive in Schererville.
In Illinois, items can be dropped off at Carmine Vision Care, 3224 Ridge Road, No. 102, in Lansing; the Lansing Village Hall, 3141 Ridge Road; the Homewood Police Department, 17950 Dixie Highway; and Nortek Environmental, 600 Industrial Drive, Unit 102, in Naperville.
Dempsey said the last business was a big supporter of his toy drive last year, and the company also has pledged to donate $1 for every person who “likes” them on the company’s Facebook page.