Darin Ortmann holds annual toy drive to provide cheer to kids

Darin Ortmann remembers what it’s like to be a child in the hospital around the holidays. At the age of five, Darin spent more than a month in a hospital during the Christmas season. This was in the back of his mind when he decided that he wanted to give back to the community. He chose to partner with his employer, Loafers Bar, to organize a toy drive for children at Swedish Covenant Hospital. Now in its third year, Darin hopes to donate 500 toys to children at Swedish Covenant Hospital this holiday season.

The annual toy drive is a holiday tradition for Darin and Loafers Bar. Just after Thanksgiving, the collection boxes are decorated and placed inside Loafers Bar (2600 W. Lawrence) to collect toys throughout the month of December. In addition, Darin organizes a benefit concert in which attendees are asked to bring a new toy to donate, or to give $5 to purchase a new toy. With additional planning, promotion and the introduction of a raffle, the drive grew from 100 toys in their first year to 400 toys last year.

The drive also serves another purpose – it’s a way to teach the two boys who he nannies for about charity.

“For kids, Christmas is often about getting and I wanted to teach the boys to give back,” Darin said. “The first year, when I was telling the boys about the drive, one of them asked if he could donate one of his toys, too.”

The best part of the drive, according to Darin, is dropping off the toys at the hospital with the boys he nannies for. Along with his two helpers, Darin delivers the toys a few days before Christmas. The boys dress in their elf hats, a nickname affectionately given to them the first year by a nurse in the ED, and help to distribute the toys to the kids.

Darin recalls the warm reaction to the toys, and the impact it has on him and the boys. He remembers one child giving a big hug in return for the toy, as well as a small girl who went from crying one moment to smiles and laughter a few moments later because of their kindness.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Darin said.

To learn more about fundraising on behalf of Swedish Covenant Hospital, click here or contact the Foundation at foundation@swedishcovenant.org or (773) 293-5121.

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