OU’s Bottomless Toy Chest interns make a difference at annual Red Carpet Movie Event

Rachel Basela, Life & Arts Editor

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The Bottomless Toy Chest (BTC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Troy, Mich., serves the pediatric cancer community by providing year-round toy deliveries to hospitalized children undergoing cancer treatment. Along with this, the organization offers an internship program through Oakland University where three OU students took on the challenge of helping children in need this summer.

The 2019 annual Red Carpet Movie Event on July 18 featured a private screening of “Toy Story 4” to pediatric cancer patients and their families along with other activities. Families entered Emagine Theater in Royal Oak, where they were greeted like movie stars by the staff of BTC with a red carpet, media teams, T-shirts and Oscar-esque awards. The afternoon concluded with a pizza party that included arcade games, a photo booth, face painting and “Toy Story”-themed crafts.

Many families who were in attendance were introduced to the organization through toy deliveries at Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital.

The Butler family attended the annual movie event, and Kent Butler discussed the impact that BTC has created in the life of his daughter, Carter.

“Bottomless Toy Chest has been in her regular routine at the hospital,” Butler said. “She’s excited to go to the hospital every time for her back pokes, for spinal taps, for her blood tests, because she knows she gets to go into the Bottomless Toy Chest.”

Mickey Guisewite, founder, president and executive director of BTC, found toys were also the solution to brightening her child’s journey of battling cancer. This realization that pushed her to start a small toy drive around a decade ago morphed into a nationwide organization that has provided around 30,000 toys to 11 hospitals across the United States.

“I found that the more I could do to keep my son, Jack, engaged and focused on what he could do than all the things he couldn’t do, the better he responded to his treatment,” Guisewite said. “It’s scary to be in the hospital. It’s tedious to be a patient, especially when you’re a child, so I just made sure he had a lot of things to do.”

Guisewite used toys to bring life to her son’s hospital visits, and in the more recent years, she has welcomed interns from OU to progress her mission of lightening other children’s lives.

OU seniors Rachel Pepe, Katie Krajenke and Samantha Miller are interns at BTC and were in attendance for this year’s Red Carpet Movie Event. All three have an interest in working with non-profit organizations and found that BTC suited their degree paths when choosing a capstone credit.

“I talked to [Bottomless Toy Chest volunteers] at the career fair … and I really like their energy,” Krajenke said. “They seemed really personable and friendly.”

This particular non-profit organization seemed to resonate with the trio as they reminisced about memorable events that BTC has put on in the past months. 

“We put on an event at C.J. Barrymore’s called Celebration of Life about a month ago, and it was really nice to see the families outside and having a good time together and celebrating their life, not focusing on what had happened to them,” Krajenke said. 

The interns encouraged OU students to get involved at the Bottomless Toy Chest through individual or team volunteering, as well as making toy or monetary donations to the organization through its website.