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Here’s how many toys were collected at Lily’s Toy Drive
Lily's Toy Drive
It took two full trailers and a truck to haul away all 8,000 toys donated for the seventh annual Lily's Toy Drive. - photo by Ben Hendren

Seven years ago, on Dec. 15, 2012, 11-year-old Lily Anderson passed away after a battle with a rare form of cancer, and since then, her family has been determined to make Dec. 15 into a day that benefits other children going through medical issues, and this year was no exception.

On Sunday, the seventh annual Lily’s Toy Drive was held at Vickery Village, where hundreds of visitors brought out an estimated 8,000 gifts for patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

“It was amazing, and we collected more toys than ever before,” said Lily’s mom, Jennifer Anderson. “Right now, we’re still counting the toys, but from the number of toys I think we collected – because every toy gets a sticker, and we ordered 10,000 stickers and have 2,000 left – so we’re estimating about 8,000 toys were collected.”

Anderson said in the end, it took two 24-foot trailers and a truck to collect all the toys, which will be taken to a warehouse to be sorted and packed before going to kids at CHOA.

“We’re actually going to bag 300 Christmas bags for all the kids that have to be in the hospital at Christmas,” she said. “We’re going on Wednesday to a warehouse, and we’re going to have a team of people there and fill those bags and then those bags will go to Children’s Healthcare so the kids that have to be in the hospital on Christmas, they’ll get a Christmas present. Then the rest of the toys go down to Children’s Healthcare, and they’ll disperse them between the hospitals.”

Rather than just dropping off gifts and going on their way, Sunday’s event featured lots of activities for donors and kids, including a special memorial for Lily.

“We had about 20 different local artisans come and set up booths, and they were selling their arts and crafts,” Anderson said. “We also had a lot of entertainment. We had singers, dancers and a DJ there, and of course, we had the star of the show, Santa Claus... He came and read a story to the kids, and everyone could get pictures with Santa. There were cookies and cider and hot chocolate.

“One of the most exciting things was that Station 14 came and set up the big, long firetruck with the ladder, and they lit up the ladder lime green, which was Lily’s favorite color, and it went to the sky. It was absolutely amazing.”

The first year of the drive, 1,111 toys were collected, which the family said was fitting as 11 was Lily’s special number.

“It was amazing, and we collected more toys than ever before,” said Lily’s mom, Jennifer Anderson. “Right now, we’re still counting the toys, but from the number of toys I think we collected – because every toy gets a sticker, and we ordered 10,000 stickers and have 2,000 left – so we’re estimating about 8,000 toys were collected.”

Anderson said in the end, it took two 24-foot trailers and a truck to collect all the toys, which will be taken to a warehouse to be sorted and packed before going to kids at CHOA.

“We’re actually going to bag 300 Christmas bags for all the kids that have to be in the hospital at Christmas,” she said. “We’re going on Wednesday to a warehouse, and we’re going to have a team of people there and fill those bags and then those bags will go to Children’s Healthcare so the kids that have to be in the hospital on Christmas, they’ll get a Christmas present. Then the rest of the toys go down to Children’s Healthcare, and they’ll disperse them between the hospitals.”

Rather than just dropping off gifts and going on their way, Sunday’s event featured lots of activities for donors and kids, including a special memorial for Lily.

“We had about 20 different local artisans come and set up booths, and they were selling their arts and crafts,” Anderson said. “We also had a lot of entertainment. We had singers, dancers and a DJ there, and of course, we had the star of the show, Santa Claus... He came and read a story to the kids, and everyone could get pictures with Santa. There were cookies and cider and hot chocolate.

“One of the most exciting things was that Station 14 came and set up the big, long firetruck with the ladder, and they lit up the ladder lime green, which was Lily’s favorite color, and it went to the sky. It was absolutely amazing.”

The first year of the drive, 1,111 toys were collected, which the family said was fitting as 11 was Lily’s special number.

After collecting about eight times that total this year, Anderson said the event has grown in popularity each year.

She said two possible reasons for the big number were that organizers had an Amazon link up this year, meaning donors from across the country could send in toys, and Anderson – along with her husband, Joey, and daughter, Audrey – began the Live A Yes Foundation, which supports children in need, in memory of Lily.

“It just keeps growing every year. It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s just exploded this year, and I think part of it was the starting of the Live a Yes Foundation. Lily, that was kind of like her little tagline in life, she always lived a yes, so we started this foundation, so we wanted to make an immediate impact down at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.”

Similarly, the family has also kicked up the Lily Anderson Live A Yes Fund to help children and families undergoing treatment at CHOA.

“We have $100,000 that is going into that fund to start it off and make immediate changes, where we can say, ‘Our Lily Anderson Fund wants to put TVs in these rooms for kids or change the way so parents have better sleeping arrangements,” Anderson said. “We can make changes down there, so it’s exciting.”

Between the gifts, the foundation and the support of the community, Anderson said she was touched to see how big of a mark Lily has left.

“It’s just amazing to know the community still supports, still remembers, still loves her,” Anderson said. “She made an impact, and we’re just so grateful for this community.”

For more information on the Live A Yes Foundation, visit www.liveayes.org.