Westyn Genens never saw his first birthday — or his first Christmas. But the Joliet infant has left behind a legacy of love that is making holidays happier for children facing a Christmas in the hospital.
Westyn, who was born with several congenital heart defects, was three months old when he died in August 2007.
Now, parents Jeff and Sarah Genens — plus little sister Ivy, 4 — are celebrating his life with the sixth annual “Westyn’s Wish” toy drive.
Each year, the family collects toys to be donated in Westyn’s memory to children spending Christmas at Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn — the same hospital where Westyn underwent heart surgery at just two days old.
Every year, the Genens family loads up their pickup truck to deliver the toys to staff at the hospital, which treats critically ill children, including kids with cancer and heart disease.
“Our first Christmas without him, we just wanted to do something,” mom Sarah said. The couple decided to donate toys in Westyn’s memory to children spending Christmas at the Oak Lawn hospital. “There are so many kids there. We just want them to be happy on Christmas.”
Last year, more than 800 toys were collected. Toys are distributed to kids in the pediatric intensive care unit before Christmas, with any leftover toys given to new patients throughout the year, Sarah said.
This year, several local businesses are getting involved to help make the holidays brighter.
Alexander Photography in Plainfield is a returning sponsor this year, offering holiday photos sessions in exchange for a toy donation on Dec. 1. The photography studio is also selling raffle tickets for prizes donated by Plainfield-area businesses.
To book a holiday photo session, call Kelly Alexander at 815-405-6416.
Starting after Thanksgiving and until Dec. 23, toy donations can be dropped off at any of the following locations:
- Bikram Yoga, 13710 Route 30
- Back on the Rack, 24038 W. Lockport St.
- Interstate Batteries, 11912 S. Spaulding School Dr.
- Heartland Blood Center, 121 Sprinfield Ave.
- Rockzorz Salon & Spa, 3021 Theodore St.
- Addison’s Family Restaurant, 3501 Channahon Rd.
- Moonstep Productions, 1523 Plainfield Rd., suite 5
- Planet Chiropractic, 432 N. Weber Rd.
- Creative Toy Mart, 11326 Lincoln Hwy.
Westyn’s Wish accepts donations of new toys for children from birth through age 18. For older kids and teens, donations of DVDs, CDs and iTunes gift cards are also appreciated.
If you can’t make it to a drop-off site, the couple is also willing to pick up donations, Sarah said.
To request a pick up, or for more information on the toy drive, email Sarah at email@example.com.
Monetary donations are also welcome.
For more information, visit the Westyn’s Wish page on Facebook.