Sometimes a childhood experience will influence our actions later in life. When Jack Murphy was 5 and living in Tennessee, his little sister, Grace, then 2 months old, was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit. The family, including parents Patrick and Wendy, camped out in the hospital to be by the baby’s side.
As a result, Jack spent much of that December stuck in a sterile environment with nothing to do. Then came Christmas Day, and the nurses surprised him with toys and a special celebration.
Fast-forward to this year, and Jack, now 15 and a student at Faith Lutheran High School, delivered 144 new toys to the Summerlin Hospital Pediatric Unit — toys he had collected as part of his first National Honor Society effort.
He said when his teacher told them to pick a project, he knew immediately what he wanted to do: give toys to those stuck in the hospital.
“I felt connected to this project,” said Jack, a Centennial Hills resident. “When my sister was in there, I was able to receive toys. So, it made me feel like I needed to give back.”
The whole family was on hand to deliver the toys on Aug. 11 — so many of them that the hospital had to provide carts to transport them from Patrick Murphy’s SUV.
“We will never say ‘no’ to toys,” said Jacquie MacLeod, a child life specialist at Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital, 657 N. Town Center Drive.
Getting the word out to secure donations proved no easy feat. Faith Lutheran, 2015 S. Hualapai Way, did not allow students to put up posters or signs, so Jack turned to social media. He also alerted his lacrosse team to his mission.
The toys started trickling in. Wendy Murphy said that friends and family on the East Coast provided nearly $200.
“We told them that whatever they donated, the money would go directly to buying the toys, that we would pay the tax,” she said. “It was like shopping for Christmas, but we didn’t buy anything for (ourselves).”
The $200 bought nearly half the toys, the family said, including Barbie dolls, a soccer ball, a Tonka truck, a teddy bear and games. They chose things that would appeal to every age group.
MacLeod said the hospital gets two to four Pediatric Unit donations per month from groups such as the Boy Scouts and various school and civic groups. Toward the holidays, she said, they see more.
“It’s not always toys,” she added. “Sometimes they’ll make fleece tie blankets or put together kits for the kids. Everybody’s project is different, depending on what their goal was.”
Jack ’s effort is all the more notable because the ninth-grader was out of commission for the entire summer. He took an illegal hit on the lacrosse field during the last game of the season, which caused a concussion.
“He was woozy for a little while and had to come out of the game,” Patrick Murphy said. “But he convinced the coach to put him back in, which was probably a mistake because he just hit the wall, and the coach took him out again. So, he’s been battling it since May.”
As a result, the teen spent the summer at home in a dark room. Light could have compromised his condition, as could anything that strained his eyes. The doctor’s orders were strict: He could not watch television, play video games, use his computer or cellphone or even read books.
“I was supposed to have been on a couple of lacrosse teams and I couldn’t,” he said. “It wasn’t fun. It was really boring.”
Delivering the toys was one of his first outings. He said he is feeling better now and appreciates being able to do almost all of the things he did before.
Grace, now 8, said it was fun to shop for the toys, even though there was one — a Shopkins toy — that she would have liked for herself.
The experience also helped shape Jack’s career choice: to be a physical therapist.
To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email email@example.com or call 702-387-2949.