PAW PAW. Mich., — Matthew Lehto is very focused on toys this holiday season, but it’s not what you might think. The 13-year-old is in his 7th year of holding a toy drive to collect toys to donate to local children’s hospitals. He’s distributed the gifts at Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo in previous years, and plans to donate the toys to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids this year.
“I’ve never met them, but it makes me feel like I’m doing a big thing for them,” Lehto told FOX 17 News. “I couldn’t save them or do anything to help them get rid of the cancer but I could help the holidays and their lives become a lot happier.”
Lehto started the drive after losing his friend Megan to brain cancer when she was five. This year, the project has become even more personal since Lehto and his younger brother Andrew recently lost another friend, six-year-old Kevin Linder, who passed away in October.
Lehto has also enlisted two other friends to help sell candy bars with the goal of raising an additional $1,000 thousand dollars to also purchase gas cards and other items for the families with children in the hospital this holiday season. The group has already raised $500 dollars.
“To realize that there are people that have it so much harder than they do… I’m very proud,” said Stacey Lehto, Matt and Andrew’s mom. “I’m impressed. I don’t even know what to think when [Matt] started doing it. They’ve just always had the empathy.”
Lehto said the boys will be collecting toys and money at a local restaurant, the Roadhouse Bar and Grill (38138 W Red Arrow Hwy), in Paw Paw this weekend.
The boys plan to deliver the gifts to DeVos Children’s Hospital the week before Christmas.
To learn more or to donate, you can find the group on Facebook by clicking here.