Kids with cancer have new hope

By Sarah Wojcik

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The Bottomless Toy Chest, a nonprofit charity organization, is dedicated to providing pediatric cancer patients with crafts and educational and interactive toys.

BTC hopes such gifts will provide patients with empowerment and strength to overcome their illnesses, as well as provide them with much needed comfort during painful treatments and long hospital stays.

Mickey Guisewite founded BTC in 2008 after her son, Jack, was diagnosed with cancer.

Still a student at Oakland University, Rosalyn Calvaneso was the family’s nanny, and, interested in another internship before graduation, decided to join Guisewite in her pursuit.

Three years later, Jack is well and BTC is continuing to help children and families in similar situations.

Calvaneso has since graduated, earning a degree double majoring in English and journalism in 2009, and now works full-time as the organization’s program coordinator.

BTC started working primarily with the Children’s Hospital, but now works with others like Beaumont. In most cases, the group delivers the toys personally.

“The first time I went down to the hospital, I bawled my eyes out the whole car ride home,” Calvaneso said. “You don’t learn to live with it exactly, but you do learn to see it differently.”

All toys are wrapped in clear cellophane. The plastic not only helps to protect the children’s already compromised immune systems, but also lets them choose which toy they want.

“So many decisions are made for them every day. This gives them a sense of control — it’s the emotional side of treatment,” Calvaneso said.

BTC makes collections through drives, donations, fund-raisers and larger events.

In May, they held their second annual baby shower in honor of infants diagnosed with cancer — earning an amazing $36,000 — twice that of the event’s earnings last year.

In early June, they held their first date auction — an event created in hopes of raising awareness and support in a younger crowd, Calvaneso said, other than parents. The group raised another $8,000.

“I’m so proud,” Calvaneso said. “It’s really a trial and error. We’re trying to find the perfect mix of events.”

BTC’s most celebrated event happens in December. Instead of hosting a fundraiser, the group instead hosts a Christmas brunch for the families affected by pediatric cancer.

At the brunch, children visit with Santa Claus and receive gifts while parents who have worked hard all year long to pay hospital bills are treated to something nice for themselves.

Those interested in helping can make donations online through BTC’s website, sponsor their own toy-drive or fundraiser or even host a wrap party — a supplied event to wrap already-collected toys.

BTC’s Kid2Kid program even allows kids to make a contribution of their own.

To learn more about BTC or how to help, visit www.bottomlesstoychest.org