Originally published in Springfield News-Sun – October 16, 2020
A Logan County teen works each year to help donate thousands of toys to children in need.
Tyler Slaven, 19, of De Graff, has donated a total of more than 35,000 toys to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus through an annual toy drive that he’s led for the past six years that he started through his school.
“The sole fact of knowing how many smiling faces there will be is plenty enough reward for my family and everyone at Ohio Virtual Academy,” Slaven said. “Our only hope is that our efforts will continue to grow through the help of each community, to ensure not a single child in any hospital will ever wake up on Christmas morning without at least cracking a little smile.”
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Slaven was able to continue the toy drive this year and donated 11,502 toys to the hospital last weekend.
All donated toys were taken to a separate building to be placed in quarantine and sanitized for the safety of children.
“We received clearance from the hospital to conduct the toy drive again this year only a week and a half prior to the drop off date. All donations were collected within a week and a half. On a typical year, we start collecting on Nov. 1 through the third week of December,” Slaven said.
Slaven broke the hospital’s record for single largest donation in both 2019 with 20,300 toys and in 2018 with 9,200 toys. In other past years, 3,000 toys were donated in 2017, 1,700 in 2016 and 800 in 2015.
Slaven said he knew he would be faced with challenges this year due to COVID-19, but worked carefully with the hospital to set up safety protocols and precautions to keep volunteers, donors and children safe.
“We felt strongly in our hearts that cancelling the toy drive was not the right solution. The needs of the children have not lessened, virus or no virus,” he said. “This year we made the hard decision to not provide any toy drop-off locations in efforts to limit the spread and transmission of the virus. We went to an all-monetary donation basis for donations this year to purchase toys for the children… Safety remained our priority from day one all the way until the toys were delivered.”
Each year, Slaven collects toys across the state, including the Springfield area. He organized the first drive when he was a high school student at Ohio Virtual Academy.
“Six years ago, my sister Monica was a senior and I was a freshman. That was a very special year for us both because it was our first and last year together in high school. Our mission was to do something together that would help make a difference in the communities across our state,” he said. “After giving it a lot of thought, we decided we wanted to put smiles on as many children’s faces that were in the hospital during Christmas as we could.”
Slaven said Ohio Virtual Academy has been “heavily involved” in helping to promote the word and organize those who participate in the drive.
“This toy drive is something that my family and I hold very closely to our hearts,” Slaven said. “It has been a family tradition that all of my family is involved with each year… This has been something that so many people look forward to as a Christmas tradition,” he said.
Slaven said there are several ways to donate, including drop off locations, mailing toys to the Ohio Virtual Academy office, making a donation online via PayPal, or through cash or check donations to buy toys.
To learn more about Ohio Virtual Academy, visit ohva.k12.com