When Jennifer Anderson describes her daughter, Lily, she says the only word that truly captures her is “Glitter.”
“She was tiny and shiny,” says Anderson with a laugh, “and if she came to give you a hug or something you wouldn’t be able to get her off you.”
But on Dec. 15, 2012, 11-year-old Lily Anderson passed away after fighting a five-year battle with cancer.
In the time since her death, Anderson and her family have turned that tragic day into a positive force by helping a hospital that fought to save their little girl.
Lily’s Annual Night of Glitter and Gifts, held on the anniversary of her passing, has become the largest toy drive event for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta or CHOA, collecting thousands of items every year for the hospital and its patients.
Lily’s Fifth Annual Night of Glitter and Gifts is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at Vickery Village Courtyard, 5755 South Vickery St., Cumming.
Anderson explained that the loss coming so close to Christmas was devastating to the family, but that when a friend suggested they somehow mark the occasion, she knew the family had to do something to preserve Lily’s legacy.
“Lily lived such a ‘yes life,’ and even though she was going through so much, she was able to do so much,” Anderson said. “Now you see all these people coming out and giving, and it’s all because of Lily.”
Reflecting on Lily’s time in the hospital, Beth Buursema, director of foundation and external affairs at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said the young girl became a favorite at the hospital for her bright personality.
“Lily was such a special young lady. Everyone at the hospital knew her and everyone fell in love with her,” said Buursema, “It’s incredible that she wanted to help the other kids even when she was in treatment.”
When the charity event began in 2013, it focused on the vigil for Lily and grossed a pickup truck full of toys for donation to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Last year however the event filled a 16-foot truck floor to ceiling with donated toys.
“We truly are so grateful,” Anderson. “We couldn’t do it without everyone’s love and support.”
Buursema agreed, saying Forsyth County is one of the best areas for charitable donations.
“This event will blow you away,” Buursema said.
This year’s event, in addition to being a toy drive and candlelight vigil for Lily’s memory, will feature a tree lighting, holiday entertainment by Stipes Studio, holiday caroling, seasonal refreshments, kids’ crafts and a visit from Santa Claus.
The family has asked that any gift donations be unwrapped, and to please not donate any stuffed animals, violent toys, or any toy with glitter.
Buursema asked that anyone wishing to donate consider gifts for children in their teens, as they often get forgotten.