SPARTA, Mich. — Pictures and mementos of Ethan Collins fill Lisa Shields’ home.
“You can’t not smile at a single picture in this room,” said Shields. “There’s a teddy bear up here. He’s had it since NICU and the thing had to go to every single surgery.”
The Sparta mom says each object helps her and Ethan’s sister, Serenitie, remember the happy-go-lucky four-year-old boy.
“[He] was always keeping you on your toes,” said Shields. “He would do anything and everything to get your attention.”
In 2019, Ethan died from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which causes fluid to build up in the lungs and deprive organs of oxygen.
“The last two years have really been a tester for everybody,” said Shields.
But Ethan’s family wants his memory to go beyond what’s in their living room, which is why, this week, toys will be collected in his honor.
“It’s making kids happy,” said Serenitie Collins. “I’m glad to do that. I can’t wait to see smiles on kids faces from all those toys.”
From April 25 - May 1, the family is asking people in West Michigan to help fill two trailers with unused, new toys. Donations will be accepted at 8955 Sparta Avenue or 370 N State St.
The trailers will then be hauled to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a place Ethan spent most of his life after doctors diagnosed him with Cerebral Palsy and a rare genetic disorder called Jalili Syndrome.
“Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has been like home away from home for us,” said Shields. “It gives them something to do other than sitting in bed. It’s not dreary when you have toys. When you have toys, you’re more excited.”
The drop off is scheduled to happen on the anniversary of Ethan’s death, which is May 2. While difficult, his family says this is the way to remember him.
“It’s just a push to be like, he is able to do it and he is watching you, so you can do it,” said Shields.
The family hopes the community thinks so too.
“You will be brightening up a child’s life like no other with just a simple toy,” said Shields.