LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A local mother has made it her mission to turn her family’s tragedy into an opportunity to give back to the community.
In March 2019, a 12-year-old boy named Jonny Smith was hit and killed while walking home from school near Fort Apache Road and Maule Avenue. His mother created a toy drive in his honor to give back to the children of Sunrise Hospital.
The toy drive is now in its fourth year, and each year on Jonny’s birthday, the donations get bigger and bigger.
“‘Is it possible for me to donate some items to Sunrise Children’s Hospital with the money I would have spent on a birthday gift for Jonny?’ So that’s all I was thinking,” Jonny’s mother Suzan Smith said.
That thought turned into an annual tradition of gift-giving.
“The first 3 years, it was $2,500 to $3,000 worth of items, and this year it’s over $5,000,” Suzan said.
Suzan wanted to honor her son by creating a toy drive in his name that always takes place on Feb. 5, which is Jonny’s birthday. Each toy is special in the fact that the kids get to keep them with the hopes of taking them home once they get healthy enough to leave the hospital.
“It’s not like a toy cupboard where kids get to go and pick out games and then put them away. Because they are ill, they stay with them,” Erin Breen with UNLV’s Transportation Research Center said.
Suzan told 8 News Now that while life without Jonny will never be the same, she continues to involve herself with his friends and their families to keep his spirit alive.
“All of his friends are my mom friends and so we still see each other and they donated some of this stuff,” Suzan said. “I can see them grow and get older and I get an idea of how tall Jonny would be and what he would be interested in. They are all links to Jonny and a little piece of his life that was outside of his life at home. They all have stories to tell.”
The toys donated ranged from Barbie dolls to electronics, to arts and crafts sets.
This year, Jonny would have been 16 years old.