For the fourth year, Woodbury resident Mackenzy Koehn spread cheer to children hospitalized over the holidays.
With help from family, friends, teachers and even strangers, 8-year-old Mackenzy raised $1,700 in cash and $1,500 worth of toys for her 2018 donation to Children's Hospital in St. Paul.
The idea hatched when she lived in Overland Park, Kan. As a preschooler, Mackenzy sold her own toys to buy new ones for her school's toy drive. While the Koehn family shopped at Target for the toys, they ran into employees from Elite Comics, dressed up as superheroes while shopping for gifts for hospitalized children.
It was then that Mackenzy decided she wanted to be a real-life superhero, too.
"It just makes me feel really good when I've done it," she said.
This year her goal was to buy enough toys to fill her father's trailer. To reach her goal, Mackenzy asked her mother, Agnes, to spread the word on her Facebook page and in groups for local moms.
"It's a lot of organizing on the back side of it," Agnes Koehn said. "Mackenzy's really good about asking people for donations. ... She got on my phone and called a bunch of my friends as well as family members."
Agnes said she heard from parents who wanted their child to be involved with Mackenzy's toy drive. The word also spread among teachers at Mackenzy's school, Saint Ambrose of Woodbury.
"We went to school one day and all of a sudden left with several bags from Target," she said.
This was the third year the Koehns have done a toy drive for Children's Hospital. After raising the money, the Koehns shop for gifts they think will bring the most joy to children. Agnes said they keep an eye out for sales and consider toys and games easily played with in a hospital bed.
"(Mackenzy) and her family are exceptional at picking out toys that fit a wide range of ages for our patients," said Sara Fabian, the annual giving development officer for Children's Minnesota.
The toy shop
The 2018 holiday season was the first time Mackenzy’s donations were used in “toy shops” set up by the Child Life Department in the hospital system’s two campuses.
For three days leading up to and on Christmas Day, conference rooms were transformed into places for parents with children in the hospital over the holiday to pick out gifts. Volunteers from transport company C.H. Robinson helped wrap gifts on site.
Fabian said the first year for the toy shop was “a huge success.”
Rather than hospital employees choosing toys for patients, “we left it to the parents who know their kids better than anybody else,” Fabian said.
Fabian added that the toy wish list is constantly updated with suggestions, though the hospital system will accept all kinds of toy, game and book donations.