Kidzz Helping Kidzz, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping children in their time of need, delivered 200 hand-painted boxes filled with new donated toys to children battling cancer at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital on Easter Sunday.
The organization is led by Beth Friedman Darner and her nine-year-old son Zachary Darner. Zachary felt inspired to help kids in hospitals after his younger brother, Noah, was in the hospital as an infant due to a kidney condition.
“I felt this thing inside of me that made me feel really sad that he was there,” Zachary said. “There are so many kids in the hospital that feel like that too and I wanted to make them feel better and feel happy.”
Kidzz Helping Kidzz started in 2016 after Zachary decided to try and raise 50 new toys to give to regional hospitals during Christmas. He went door-to-door, set up collection boxes around town and gave presentations at his school in an effort to spread the word about his cause. In the end, the toy drive exceeded all expectations with 259 toys.
By 2017, Zachary increased his goal to raise 1,000 toys and broadened his reach to local rotary clubs, other schools and the mayor of Bremerton. Zachary again exceeded expectations, delivering 1,589 toys. In 2018, Zachary again raised his goal to 5,000 toys. With the help of a newly formed advisory board, made up of seven kids from ages 7-14, Kidzz Helping Kidzz continued to exceed their goals by reaching 5,890 donated toys.
“These kids really became the voice of our projects of what we’re going to be doing in the community, Friedman-Darner said. “We are working off the energy of these kids. In doing this, we are fostering leadership and the interest in helping other kids.”
This year, Zachary and the advisory board worked hard to deliver 200 hand-painted Easter boxes containing books, kindles, puzzles, games, coloring books and stuffed animals, among other things, to children with cancer at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. The boxes of toys were delivered Thursday to the hospitals and kids opened them on Easter Sunday.
“Our toys go to the sickest of sick kids,” Friedman-Darner said. “Any kid in Kitsap County is likely to end up at Seattle Children’s Hospital or Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and that is our focus. Both hospitals have said we’re the largest donor of toys they’ve ever received from an organization at one time.”
Beth also raved about Zachary’s dedication and commitment to the cause.
“If you would have asked me when we started, I never imagined we would be forming a non-profit,” Friedman-Darner said. “It’s been a very organic effort. He is an ordinary kid with extraordinary determination.”
Donations of money, time and toys can be made year-round to Kidzz Helping Kidzz. Toy collection boxes will be placed at various county businesses starting the week of Thanksgiving through Dec. 19 for the annual Christmas toy drive. By Christmas time, Zachary’s goal is to raise over 6,000 toys. But don’t be surprised if he exceeds that goal.
For more information, visit kidzzhelpingkidzz.org.
Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com