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The Gift of Giving

by Josephine Cusumano

Photography by Dana Earley/Jefferson Health NJ

For the past six years, 15-year-old DJ Alexis carries out a month-long toy drive right before the holidays, in hopes of donating enough toys to the children of Jefferson Washington Township Hospital (formerly Kennedy Health). He does this to honor his newborn brother, Emanuel, who passed away in 2006 and whose birthday was Dec. 21.

“He passed at Kennedy and they took very good care of him and did everything they could,” Alexis says. “I wanted to do something and I thought it would be great to help out the kids who were in my position or in his position, who were very sick or who were there for support. I [wanted to] help them with Christmas.”

Now, every holiday season, donations are collected from his friends, family, classmates at the Tatnall School and his alma mater, Friends School Mullica Hill, and local companies spanning Delaware, Deptford to Cherry Hill. This year, 621 toys plus personalized greeting cards were delivered to children and adolescents in the Jefferson Health New Jersey’s Behavioral Health program by Alexis, Miss Newark’s Outstanding Teen 2018, Santa Claus and others.

“My most favorite part of the toy drive is delivering toys to children—even though there are a lot of fun parts to it,” Alexis adds. “The kids [are] not in a great spot being sick so it’s really hard, particularly around the holidays, but seeing them happy, it makes me feel better knowing we got the job done.”

Alexis hopes to continue his work, stating “I’m going to try to do [this for] as long as possible and bring awareness to an issue I think is actually relevant: the hardship of being sick.” Alexis’ mother, Lesli, adds “Everybody really contributes to support him and make this a success … it’s incredible.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 10 (January, 2018). 

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