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Dekker: Toy Box Connection making a difference

Michelle Maxi(second from left) Toy Box Connectivolunteers stfront their newly decorated walls. | Supplied photo

Michelle Maxia (second from left) and Toy Box Connection volunteers stand in front of their newly decorated walls. | Supplied photo

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Updated: July 10, 2013 6:10AM



I recently visited the Toy Box Connection children’s charity in Orland Park to see the artwork on the walls that I’ve been hearing so much about.

I walked in to an explosion of giant, colorful cartoon characters, all larger than life, covering the warehouse walls from floor to ceiling. Characters from Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Minnie Mouse to Aladdin, Barney and Tweety Bird were bursting off the walls.

They’re all the work of a 23-year-old artist, Christian Diaz de Leon, who has donated his time and talents to make Toy Box Connection an even more joyful place.

“You can see the wonderment on the children’s faces when they walk in. They’ve never seen anything like it,” said Michelle Maxia, founder of the children’s charity. Five years ago, Maxia decided that if she could make a difference in a child’s life, she would find a way to do it. She became the driving force behind Toy Box Connection, and she and her dedicated volunteers have touched the lives of countless children and their families by connecting them with the items, people and services they need to make a difference in their lives.

Toy Box Connection (TBC) provides gently used toys and books to children who otherwise would have access to them. A child in a difficult domestic or economic situation is often denied the simple joy and comfort, even distraction, that a toy or book can bring.

Recently, Maxia found a way to take her charity one step further. TBC is working with Home Depot to provide home improvement items to help families in hardship improve their living conditions.

Every month, Home Depot provides the charity with a significant amount of merchandise such as carpeting, tile, flooring, cabinets and window treatments. TBC in turn works with other charitable organizations to identify families in need and deliver the goods to them.

Although children’s needs are Toy Box Connection’s primary concern, Maxia said, “it’s great to give a child a toy, but when you can give them comfort in their home we’ve raised the bar for ourselves as a children’s charity.”

Everything that happens at TBC comes through donations of time, money, toys and services. This summer, the charity will give toys to 80 children attending Burn Camp, a camp held annually by firefighters to provide fun and relaxation to young burn victims.

In July, TBC will help foster kids celebrate in a big way by giving toys to siblings who have been separated by foster care. This annual Foster Camp brings together siblings for one week to spend time together, get reacquainted and have some fun.

TBC will also provide toys to children participating in Farm Camp, where city kids get a rare chance to spend a week on a farm. In August, Toy Box Connection will provide toys for the 100 or so children attending Camp Quality, a week-long camp for children with cancer.

Maxia will be the first to point out that toys are not just for Christmas. Please keep this in mind if you find that you have toys that your children have outgrown.

Toy Box Connection has two fundraisers coming up. The first will be June 21 at Centennial Lanes, 16050 Centennial Circle, Tinley Park. This event is sure to be a blast with a buffet dinner at 7 p.m. and cosmic bowling starting at 8 p.m. Your $25 donation includes dinner, soda, three games of bowling and shoe rental.

The second event is Toy Box Connection’s 4th annual golf outing July 31 at Silver Lake Country Club, 14700 W. 82nd Ave., Orland Park. A donation of $115 includes golf with a cart, continental breakfast, lunch, beverages on the course and a steak dinner plus raffles and games. The cost for dinner alone is $50.

For more information on these events, donating and all TBC has to offer visit www.toyboxconnection.com.



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