SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A Lake Brantley High School senior is making sure Christmas is a little brighter for children who will be spending the holidays in the hospital.
Isabella Miguez, 17, said she started collecting toys for children battling cancer at AdventHealth three years ago. She said it started off as just two toy collection boxes and an idea.
“I didn’t really expect for it to go huge like that,” she said.
Now her idea has turned into a Christmas miracle for many Central Florida families.
“My house looks like a toy store,” Miguez said.
The Lake Brantley High School senior calls on help from students, teachers and staff as well as local businesses to donate the toys. She said the donations make the holidays a little easier for these families.
“How can we expect parents to pay for their treatment costs to save their child’s life and for Christmas gifts as well? It’s a lot so I wanted to do something to help out,” she said.
During her first toy drive in 2019, Miguez said she collected 500 gifts. Last year though, the pandemic put a halt on donations.
“Last year, 2020, because of COVID I got about 175 (gifts), which wasn’t as much but I understood that because of the pandemic and things like that I wouldn’t have had the same outcome,” Miguez said.
This year she asked her principal Brian Blasewitz if she could put out even more toy collection boxes around campus.
“The response from our teachers and our faculty and our staff and our kids and our community was just really, really overwhelming,” Blasewitz said.
She collected more than 1,000 toys for newborns, teens and all in-between. The gifts were stacked high in boxes, some of which were overflowing. She said she plans to take the presents to the hospital on Monday.
“I’m hoping that they have enough help to be able to take them upstairs,” Miguez said.
She’s getting results and bringing joy to children during what could be a scary and difficult time.
“It’s a really special school here and it’s because of kids like Bella. It’s just overwhelming how kind and empathic and compassionate they are,” Blasewitz said.
Miguez said she plans to study non-profit management at UCF with the goal of operating her own non-profit to help children in need.
She adds even though she’s graduating this year, she won’t stop helping any time soon.
“My goal is to be able to bring the toy drive back to Brantley next year and for many years after that,” she said.