NORTH BABYLON, NY — After Halloween comes and goes, most college students think of the Thanksgiving season as the final stretch to winter break.

But for Emily Meyer, a freshman at Quinnipiac University, has one thing on her mind: toy season.

“Once it’s Christmastime, and Halloween decorations starts to go down and we’re heading towards Thanksgiving,” she said. “It’s a tradition.”

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The next year, Meyer created the non-profit “The Emily Meyer Foundation”, also known as “Emily’s Toy Drive”, which collects toys for children in hospitals on Long Island and New York City.

The North Babylon resident started the charity after she herself was admitted on Christmas night at Good Samaritan Hospital when she was 4-years-old, due to an allergic reaction.

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In the morning, she woke up to find a big bag of gifts at the edge of her bed.

“As a little kid, I was so excited. I actually still remember it to this day,” Meyer recalled. “There was a Barbie doll and SpongeBob pajamas and building blocks.”

Meyer said her mother thanked the staff for the gifts, but expressed that they were unnecessary.

“Let’s give it to somebody who needs it a little bit more, because I did have a great Christmas,” she said.

Meyer’s family was told no, and staff insisted that she keep the gifts because every child in the hospital during the holidays “should feel the joy of the holidays” while they’re there.

“That really stuck with my mother and I,” Meyer said.

The following year, she recalled she was “so little” that giving gifts in the hospital was the “only thing” she knew.

That first year, her family and friends gathered about 25 toys.

Now 14 years later, the drive has consistently continued each year, collecting more than 20,000 toys for children at places like Good Samaritan Hospital, Cohen’s Children Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House in Glen Oaks, Mount Sinai South Nassau, as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

As a student, she organized a drive in her elementary school. The collection really “took off” when she entered middle school.

While the holiday season is the charity’s busiest time, Meyer said they collect toys year-round for other occasions.

“Kids still have birthdays, and there’s Easter and Passover and things like that, that are very important,” she said.

As a child, Meyer would personally give toys to hospitals and organizations with her family or her Girl Scout Troop.

Now that she can drive, Meyer enjoys delivering toys herself, and meets with the organization’s Child Life department.

Since her university is in Connecticut, the 18-year-old’s deliveries are now less frequent.

However, she still schedules time to email, make phone calls with, and reach out to organizations. She also makes deliveries on the weekends when visiting home and on school breaks.

Meyer credits the support she has from family and friends to prioritize her education.

“I can’t just do it all by myself,” she said. “In these limited times I’m home, I do have amazing helpers and volunteers that are awesome, and I cannot thank them enough.”

Meyer also credits the charity success to her community.

The area has truly made the drive a “tradition”, as numerous schools, municipal buildings, and businesses put up their own collection boxes and participate each year.

She tries to be as transparent as possible with the community, sharing pictures of the deliveries and the toys.

“The community sees that and what’s happening, how these kids lives are being changed,” she said.

Illness, she said, is also an unfortunate unifier.

“I’m sure almost everybody’s had an incident where a family member, or a kid or a friend or maybe even themselves, was in the hospital,” Meyer said. “It’s not a fun experience.”

In turn, others believe Meyer is amazing as well.

This summer, the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) awarded Meyer with the Your Personal Purpose Scholarship, funded by Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

The scholarship recognizes students for their personal purpose statements on the positive impact they make on their communities and in the lives of others.

She was one of 10 students selected, each awarded a $2,500 scholarship, which is renewable for four years, totaling $10,000.

Meyer told Patch she applied to the scholarship as a senior at North Babylon High School.

The news not only helps her pay for college, but shares the word about the toy drive.

“I can explain what I do into these essays and just spread my message, so it kind of serves multiple purposes,” she said.

The college freshman said she was elated to be awarded the scholarship.

“Getting this just means the world to me,” she said. “Every little bit helps, so I was so grateful. And knowing that my hard work is also going somewhere, too.”

Meyer told Patch she is majoring in public relations with a minor in media studies. Working with the non-profit has allowed her to grow an interest in the field, she said.

“I found like a deep interest in it,” Meyer said. “I love networking. I love working with people.”

While she doesn’t have a specific job in mind, she hopes to pursue a career in public relations while simultaneously working with the non-profit.

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“As the toy drive, I want to continue it as much as I can for as long as I can. But I am interested in, you know, getting my education and finding a stable career for myself, as well. “

With the support of the community, she is confident the charity will only grow.

“I love that my community has helped me so much throughout the years and the fact that they continue each and every year to help and donate and spread the word,” she said. “It’s honestly amazing.”

To learn more about The Emily Meyer Foundation and to learn how to participate, visit its website here.

To learn more about the Your Personal Purpose Scholarship, visit the NSHSS Foundation’s website here.

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