Savannah Day, 14, from Virginia, hands a toy to Lisa Hall, right, at Children's Hospital, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Cincinnati. Day, who is undergoing brain surgery at the hospital Thursday, collected over 4,000 toys for the hospital with the help of her sisters. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
CINCINNATI — Savannah Day hasn’t had time to worry about her brain surgery this week at a Cincinnati children’s hospital or that she won’t be home for Christmas. She has been too busy collecting more than 4,000 toys for other children spending their holiday at the hospital.
The slender, blonde 14-year-old from Troutville, Va., was beaming Wednesday on the eve of her surgery while carefully arranging some of the toys before presenting them to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“I thought we could collect a few hundred, but I never dreamed we would end up with thousands,” she said, motioning to piles of dolls, coloring books, games and other toys.
Savannah said she and her sisters, ages 6 and 17, decided to collect the toys soon after they learned her surgery to correct a brain malformation that causes spinal-fluid buildup in her brain would mean Christmas at a hospital.
“We just thought why not give kids in the hospital something to smile about,” she said.
Savannah, accompanied by her parents and sisters, received applause and thanks Thursday from hospital officials.
Megan Boesing, event coordinator for the hospital, said the toys will be distributed this week, with the donations helping well beyond the Christmas season.
The sisters began their “Cheer 4 Savannah” toy drive in September, asking their cheerleading teams to help. But soon other groups, friends, family, community members and businesses in their Roanoke suburb of Troutville and around Virginia joined the effort. As word spread through news and social media, the family began receiving toys from people in Ohio, Kentucky, California and other states.
“This has helped all of us too,” said the girl’s mother, Michelle Day.
Their father said he is proud of his daughters.
“It’s not only that they did something for others, but it’s also the way they are handling the surgery,” he said.
Savannah has had 13 previous surgeries for other problems, and the surgery is not expected to eliminate a migraine condition that sometimes leaves her with stroke-like symptoms.
But she says she just leads as normal a life as possible.
“I just try to keep a smile on my face and take each day as it comes,” she said.