One of the toy donation bins that the Sakash family set up to collect toys for MGHfC.
The Sakash family set up toy donation bins in various Metrowest towns in Massachusetts to collect toys for children and families who were at MGHfC over the holidays. Photo courtesy of Lacey Sakash.

In July 2019, Indiana Sakash underwent open heart surgery to correct several congenital heart defects (CHD) in the 3-month old’s chambers and valves. She recovered in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) where her mother, Lacey, of Medway, Mass., found a supportive staff to guide her family through Indie’s recovery. In December, however, a case of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory illness in children, put Indie, as she was lovingly called, back in the PICU. The Sakash family was forced to prepare for Indie’s first holiday season on Bigelow 6.

Donated toys being loaded into a van to drop off at MGHFC.
The Sakash family collected more than 400 toys, puzzles, games and stuffed animals for children and families who spent the holidays at MGHfC. Photo courtesy of Lacey Sakash.

Since then, the now 2 and a half-year-old is playing with big sister Quinn, singing Daniel Tiger songs and reading her favorite children’s books. Indie was recently diagnosed with a right bundle branch block, a common heart condition stemming from her prior surgery but otherwise, has been healthy. Lacey’s experience motivated her to support other children with congenital heart defects and their families and give back to the hospital that helped save Indie. She is now the president of Conquering CHD – Massachusetts, a state chapter of the national non-profit organization, Conquering CHD.

Lacey – along with a team of volunteers and her husband, Alex – created a toy drive, aptly named “Gifts from the Heart,” in their local community, collecting donations in several Medfield, Mass. and Arlington, Mass. schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hallways and at The Artisan Pig, a Plymouth, Mass., restaurant.

On December 16th, the team’s coordinator, Danielle Murphy, and her family delivered the first wave of over 50 toy donations. The following day, the Sakash family delivered more than 400 puzzles, books, crafts, dolls and teddy bears to children in the PICU, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and pediatric inpatient units on Ellison 17 and 18.

“We understood how difficult the long-term stays can be. We are all parents, siblings and patients that have been, at least one time, in the same position as the current inpatient families,” says Sakash, who is also a member of MGHfC's Family Advisory Council (FAC), a council of family members dedicated to the development of a positive partnership among parents, children and staff to ensure the needs of children and families are met during their experience at MGHfC. “We know firsthand how stressful hospital stays can be and wanted to lessen the load for our fellow community members this holiday season.”

Lacey was taken back by traveling through the hospital’s familiar hallways with her daughter, saying, “there are no words to describe those feelings.” Plans are already underway for the Conquering CHD Massachusetts' next collection in late 2022. “We are so grateful for the incredibly generous community members, friends and families and for the wonderful team at MGHfC child life for helping bring this dream to life. Our very first ‘Gifts from The Heart’ Toy Drive was a huge success, and we cannot wait to host another one!”