Northern Nevada Children's Cancer Foundation
3550 Barron Way #9a • Reno, Nevada 89511
The Toy Closet: The reward, the bribe, the closet of smiles.

The Toy Closet: The reward, the bribe, the closet of smiles.

The significance of the toy closet goes beyond the smiles we see in our office when a child picks out a toy. The toys we provide to children battling cancer and their siblings, are a reward for their bravery. Many kids know that when they leave their home for treatment or for a doctor’s visit, they can stop by our office and check out the toy closet.

Our staff finds little moments of gratification – as should the donors who help keep it stocked – when a child walks through the door and beelines for the closet. They deserve it. A childhood cancer diagnosis is a family diagnosis and the whole family is affected by the demanding treatment schedules, upheaval of everyday life, and the emotional burden it causes. A child battling cancer and their siblings should be rewarded for their bravery.

When we open both closet doors, it only takes a few seconds before each child has a toy in hand. They may teeter between choices for a few minutes but resolve to pick their favorite in the end. Sometimes we receive requests to save a toy “for next time.” A truly heartwarming experience for our staff is when a child stops in the office and asks to also pick out a toy for their sibling.

Toys provided have a greater significance to families than a way to amuse a child during a car ride to the hospital. The toys help serve an escape from the trials at hand.

“You have been something for [our son] to look forward to each time he gets treatment because he knows that after he is brave at the clinic he gets to go to NNCCF and pick out a new book or toy.”

A word that has been tossed around by parents to explain how the toys help the child through a tough hospital stay is “bribe.” We do not typically use that term because we think of the toys as a reward, but when you’re a parent trying to calm your screaming child (every day, week, etc.) who is terrified of needles – if a toy is a bribe, let the toy be a bribe.

Parents have told us that they have utilized toys with multiple components to help go through the steps of treatment. There are many steps in a “typical” treatment day. The process can range from having blood drawn, port accessed, medication given, vitals taken, etc. For example, the LOL Surprise Dolls (appropriate for children ages 5 an up) have multiple toys individually packaged in the surprise container. One mom told us that as they move through each step of the process, she will give her daughter a toy to open. Then when the toy is complete, the little girl plays with her reward as she waits for her infusion to be over.

Recently, we provided a large basket of toys for a family headed in for surgery and a long hospital stay. The father expressed his gratitude about the toys being a “life-saver.” As his child was prepped for surgery, cared for after surgery, prepped for an infusion, etc., he was able to emotionally occupy his child who didn’t understand why she couldn’t get out of bed, why everything hurt, and why they weren’t at home.

We receive many toy donations during the holidays, however around this time of year we need donations of new toys for all age groups. Each year at the end of spring, we experience a bit of a toy-cabinet famine. There’s a little more space between each toy – the misfit toys of Christmas past sit on the shelf, waiting to be chosen (queue “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” from Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys).

Throughout the year, we receive toys from individual donors, community partner toy drives, and our Amazon Wish List. One of our Community Partners, Learning Express Toys in south Reno, has a unique toy drive throughout the year for our foundation. At the store, they keep a bin behind the counter and offer a discount for any toys purchased for our foundation. Once the bin is full, they give us a call.

We have toys for every child – infant to young adult. We tend to stay away from plush toys, as they are hard to wash in a hospital setting. Many of our families stay in the hospital for weeks at a time and need toys that can be cleaned in a sink or with a disinfectant wipe.

As we provide financial and emotional support for these local families in the fight, we are grateful that the toy closet is one small way that we can put a smile on their face. If you would like to donate toys or host your own toy drive, please contact us! You can check out our Amazon Wish List here.

Amazon Wish List – Keep our toy closet stocked with ease.

We launched our first Amazon Wish List to provide toys for local kids affected by childhood cancer. Amazon’s extensive catalog makes it easy to find toys suitable for children experiencing long or frequent hospital stays, and our wish list gives you an insight into what we need throughout the year.

Wish lists on Amazon function similar to wedding registries – we update the items needed based on popularity, season, age range, etc. Using the Amazon Wish List makes donating toys easier than ever. View the list and simply click “add to cart” and it will ship directly to NNCCF.

There are many popular toys on this list (ex: Toy Story Legos, Paw Patrol toys) and more that we have yet to discover. Our Amazon Wish List can also serve as a guide for your next toy drive or individual donation. We will always accept new toys even if they are not on this list.

On our Wish List, you will find our selection of trending toys that can be used by children in treatment and an array of items that can entertain children of all ages. The list is practical and helps give insight to the needs and wants of our families. However what the list doesn’t display is how important these toys are to the children, siblings and parents. “The toys we provide have a greater significance to our families than a way to amuse a child during a car ride to the hospital. The toys help serve an escape from the trials at hand.” Read more about the importance of our toy closet to local children battling cancer: The Toy Closet: the reward, the bribe, the cabinet of smiles.

Many business and individuals host toy drives to support our nonprofit during the year. One of our favorite types of fundraisers are “in lieu of Birthday presents.” We have had children, inspired to help kids like them, run toy donation drives in lieu of receiving birthday presents. The giving and kind hearts of these children are inspiring to model after.

One of our Community Partners, Carrington College held a toy drive in February in honor Logan, a child currently in treatment. For the entire month, they had a donation station set up and encouraged students and professors alike to bring in a toy for a local child battling cancer. The results were astonishing. Each basket was packed to the brim with toys. The Carrington College community came together and made a donation of toys and other goods valued more than $1,000.

Community Partner toy drives like this help support our foundation and bring smiles to the children we serve. There are a few simple steps to host your own toy drive for your business, group, church or school.

  1. Come up with a creative name for your toy drive – i.e. “Logan’s Lego Drive for NNCCF”- and share on social media, in your break room, on bulletin boards and more.
  2. Send out our wish list and provide in your communications – everyone likes having an idea of what is actually wanted and needed.
  3. Set a time frame and price range – it is helpful to know when the toys are due by and if you are asking for certain types of toys.
  4. Host a donation station – your coworkers and friends can watch the amount grow, and feel inspired by the accomplishment.
  5. Give Alicia Rasmussen a call 775-825-0888 (or email and let her know! We will schedule a time for you to present your toys. It’s a perfect photo opportunity.

We are grateful for the donors that provide for our toy closet throughout the year, especially during the summer months. Have you heard of the term Christmas in July? We are dreaming of Santa’s little elves barging through our doors with bags of toys for girls and boys! Every year towards the end of spring, we call on our donors and community partners to help stock the shelves, and we are hoping our newly created Amazon Wish List helps provide helpful ideas and an opportunity to do so.


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3550 Barron Way #9a Reno, Nevada 89511
Tax ID: 20-8623503