Photo courtesy of Jill Heilman

In her short 15 years on this earth, Halle Grace Heilman made a big impact on the lives of the people closest to her. Every year on her birthday, June 2, her family holds a toy drive for St. Joseph’s hospital in her honor.

This year is especially tough for the Heilman family because this June would have been Halle’s 18th birthday and she would have been graduating from Bloomingdale High School. She had many chronic medical conditions including a rare chromosome deletion called 18Q-. She was also diagnosed with primary immune deficiency at the age of two.

Halle was often in the hospital, especially during her last year. Her mom said that Halle’s biggest fear as she became more sick was that her family would forget her and not say her name anymore when she passed, and that she would not have enough time to make a lasting impact. When she passed three years ago at the young age of 15, her family created the Halle Grace Foundation in her honor. They are determined to keep her memory alive. Her mother compares her to a comet; she came quickly, but burned brightly.

The Heilman family has collected over 900 toys over the last two years to give to the sick children at St. Joseph’s. Halle spent a lot of time at that hospital. She would feel better when the toy cart would come by and give her a gift. That inspired the family to do the same for others. “It would give her a distraction from the pain she was in while she was in the hospital,” said her mom, Jillian Heilman. “We thought, what better way to celebrate her birthday each year than to bring joy back to other kids with medical conditions.”
The family hopes to collect 1800 toys this year to represent that this year would have been her 18th birthday.

Her younger siblings, Neeley, 14, and Ben, 12, are both active in the charity, paying respect to their older sister. Both siblings have the same primary immune deficiency that their sister had. They are very active and enjoy swimming and reading. Neeley will be graduating from 8th grade this year and will be attending Durant High School next year.

The Halle Grace Foundation seeks to educate medical professionals, to support families, and to empower today’s youth, according to their website. In addition, the Foundation currently provides an annual scholarship open to college-bound girls participating in the Girl Scouts of America.

For more information, visit the If you would like to donate to the toy drive, you can drop off new unwrapped toys for kids 0-18 by the end of May at Quilts on Plum Lane at 14215 7th St., Dade City, FL 33523, the State Farm Office of Melissa Snively at 16209 Fishhawk Blvd., Lithia, FL 33547, or you can contact Jill Heilman at 230-0158 or email

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.