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Amelia Islander

Tyler's Toys

Nov 07, 2016 10:55AM
Tyler Pennewell was just 22 months young when his address changed from Fernandina Beach, Florida to heaven. “He was such a quiet, peaceful boy… a knowing soul,” says Rachel, Tyler’s mom. She describes Tyler as beyond his years in his ability to share with other children, and sharing with other boys and girls is exactly what Tyler is doing today. Twelve years ago, Tyler passed in a drowning accident. “Trying to figure out what to do—how to live everyday life—after losing your child is confusing,” confides Rachel. “It is so hard to be a parent and not have the child. I still want to take care of Tyler and love him.” Rachel and Patrick have grieved their son in different ways, and in the past twelve years they have worked hard to realize his legacy.

“For the first Christmases after Tyler left, my father-in-law and I would select an angel off the tree at church and complete the entire Christmas for the family,” Rachel remembers. “When it was time for Tyler to start kindergarten, we helped buy school supplies for a child in need. Anything I could do to pay forward my love for my son and help fill the void he left.” Tyler’s birthday in May was always the most difficult day for the family. “Trying to celebrate with him not with us was just hard,” says Rachel. “On the third birthday, we were at Main Beach with cake and balloons, and I just said, ‘I am not doing this again.’”

In the meantime, the family welcomed their daughters, Hannah and Ella. “When the girls were young, they both ended up in Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital for short stays,” Rachel explains. “The staff at Wolfson’s truly cares for each patient and excels medically, but the best part happens when the treatment ends. They offer the child a gift, a toy.”

For this family, the toy was almost like a peace offering, showing their baby girl that the medical staff was there to help her, not to torture her. Rachel described how Ella’s demeanor immediately changed when they presented her with a toy, and this was the day that Tyler’s Toys was conceived.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital even has a wish list to help them find what they need. As their website notes, “Donations of brand-new toys, games, stuffed animals, and crafts are welcome throughout the year. Toys and games are used in the playrooms to entertain children during the hospital stay. Stuffed animals and blankets are a comfort to patients and are given to them to take home. Donations also make it possible for patients to choose a gift after a medical procedure or to celebrate a birthday or holiday. Patients and families are very appreciative of all gifts and are touched by your generosity to help make the hospital stay more comfortable.”

Tyler’s Toys, Inc. was formed to collect just these wish list items for Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital. “This is our fourth year,” smiles Rachel. “What I love most about the toys is that it allows children to feel like kids despite the seriousness of what they’re experiencing at the hospital.”

Bringing this joy to children is no small feat. With 60,000 to 80,000 patients at Wolfson’s each year, a lot of toys are needed. Tyler’s Toys is doing its part each year, delivering a firetruck overflowing with toys last year to the hospital.

If you would like to partner with the Pennewell family in sharing toys with other children—just like Tyler loved to do—you can drop off new items at Chick-fil-A Amelia Island in the Tyler’s Toys wagon between now and Christmas, or contact Rachel to participate financially at [email protected] The following link provides the Wolfson Children’s Hospital toy Wish List: www.wolfsonchildrens.org/ways-to-give/Documents/childlife_wishlist.pdf.