Allen Magie, a resident of Haskell, NJ visited The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s in New Brunswick just before Thanksgiving in order to spread some holiday cheer to patients in the pediatric oncology and hematology units.  The purpose of Allen’s visit was to deliver 100+ gift cards he collected for the Holiday Party being held at the hospital. Not only did Allen’s Gift Card Drive benefit many children undergoing treatment at Saint Peter’s, it assisted him in remembering his late uncle.

“When Amanda from Saint Peter’s reached out to me in early August to ask if I would be willing to take on this project, I couldn’t say ‘no’.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with Amanda in the past and helping the kids at Saint Peter’s is so rewarding. I was definitely ready to help!”

Allen first met Amanda last year when he was selected to be a member of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation Young Ambassador program.  The Henrik Lundqvist Foundation aims to promote community service and fundraising to create positive changes in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services.  The Young Ambassador program of the foundation inspires young people to get involved and help make a difference in the world. While Allen was an HLFYA member, he had to complete an independent service project (ISP).  Allen held a Toy and Game Drive to benefit The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s for his ISP and collected over 30 boxes filled with games and toys for the hospital. Allen chose Saint Peter’s in honor of a fellow youth hockey player, Matt Adonis. Matt was a patient at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor called medulloblastoma in 2017.  Happily, Matt is back on the ice and is doing well.

“Matt and his family blessed me when they helped me connect with Amanda.  Amanda and I worked well together during my Toy and Game Drive, so when she reached out to ask me to hold a Gift Card Drive, I was honored.  The goal of the Gift Card Drive was to be certain that every child receiving care in the pediatric oncology and hematology units received a $25.00 gift card at the hospital’s Holiday Party.  In addition, there was a goal that every sibling of each patient also received a $10.00 gift card at the party. These kids are undergoing treatment and some of them wouldn’t be home to celebrate the holidays.  Every day these young patients fight to get well and stay well and providing them with gift cards is just a simple way to bring the patients and their families a little bit of joy during this time of year. The goal was to collect 65 $25.00 gift cards and 75 $10.00 gift cards.  Quite a challenge, but I was willing to do all I could to help these kids have a happy holiday.”

Allen decided to hold his Gift Card Drive in memory of his uncle, Keith Rietema, a resident of Ringwood, NJ who passed away this past August after a battle with cancer.  “My Uncle Keith is not biologically my uncle; he is actually my Mom’s first cousin, but to me, he was Uncle Keith. He was an awesome guy who always wore a smile on his face and was kind to everyone he met.  He had countless friends that he made over the years due to his easy-going nature and willingness to help anyone who needed it. Before my Uncle Keith passed away, he and I had a talk. He explained to me that he wanted me to continue to do good things and help others, encouraged me to keep working hard at playing hockey and in school, and gave many words of wisdom I will need as I mature into a young adult.  That conversation really touched me and when I was asked by Amanda to hold this Gift Card Drive, I couldn’t think of a better way to make Uncle Keith proud. Just like my uncle did, I wanted to do all I could to help those in need. With the blessing of my Aunt Tracey (his wife) and my cousin Natalie (his daughter) I was ready to take on the challenge.”

Allen began his Gift Card Drive by creating flyers and posting them on his Instagram page, having his parents post them on their Facebook pages, and he hung up a flyer in a local hometown store, Kressaty’s Pharmacy, which is owned by his aunt’s family.  Before he knew it, Allen’s posts were being shared throughout social media, and people began reaching out regarding donating gift cards. The family members of his aunt and uncle also began donating and spreading the word and the gift cards began rolling in.  Allen also received help from the staff of Haskell Elementary School. The school’s principal and teachers raised money for Allen to purchase gift cards by having staff members make a donation to wear jeans or pajamas. “My principal, Mr. Doolittle, and all of my teachers at Haskell School are great people.  I can’t say enough about them. And my aunt’s sister, Lori, really went above and beyond to help me make this Gift Card Drive a success. I am thrilled to be able to say that the goal of my Gift Card Drive exceeded my expectations!”

On Wednesday, November 27th Allen delivered over 100 Gift Cards to Amanda and Kristal of the Child Life Program at Saint Peter’s.  During his visit, Allen delivered 79 $25.00 gift cards and 87 $10.00 gift cards to be distributed at the Holiday Party at the Children’s Hospital on December 1st.   “It was such a great afternoon getting to meet with Amanda once again. She and Kristal were so grateful!”

Allen received gift card donations that exceeded his original goal.  With these gift cards, he purchased toys and games for the HLFYA program which was collecting items for the children’s unit of the New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Allen felt he wanted to continue to spread joy to other young patients in need. Furthermore, Allen collected monetary donations for his Gift Card Drive as well, but since he exceeded the expectations, he wanted to put the money to good use.  He made a donation to the Catch A Dream Foundation which provides once-in-a-lifetime fishing and hunting trips to children with life-threatening illnesses. “My Uncle Keith was an avid, life-long fisherman. He spent most of his free time fishing on his boat, The 4 Reel, in the open ocean waters.  I think he would be proud that I decided to help kids have the experience of fishing and enjoying nature. I miss you Uncle Keith and hope you’re proud.”