Mulrennan Middle School student Addison Kapustiak knows what it is like to be a child at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The Valrico resident has been receiving treatment there since she was a baby, and this has motivated her to do something to give back.
For the last five years, with the help of her mom, Alice Kapustiak, Addison has organized holiday toy drives through her nonprofit, Sending Smiles, and to date has donated more than 10,000 toys and received the Community Hero of Tomorrow award from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which resulted in a $25,000 donation to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Sending Smiles’ name, but she is not done yet.
“I spend a lot of time in the hospital and at the Infusion Center getting treatments,” said Addison. “This year has been really hard for me; I spent many weeks in the hospital. It can be so hard being away from everyone. I know how much these little things can make it a little easier. I want to help cheer up other kids when they are having a hard time or when they are sad.”
She is currently collecting unwrapped toys, gift cards and items for children from birth to 21 years old and will be taking them to the hospital late this month.
“One of my favorite memories was when I was able to give a little girl with cancer a special doll,” she said. “She had the biggest smile. That makes me the happiest when I know I can make them smile. I am so thankful for all the support I get so I can continue to make a difference.”
Toys can be dropped off at Mulrennan Middle School, located at 4215 Durant Rd. in Valrico, or mailed to 3721 Harrogate Dr., Valrico, FL 33596. If you would like to make a donation, money can be sent through Cash App at $SendingSmiles1 or Venmo @Sending-Smiles. All donations are tax-deductible.