Helping others can be a critical part of the healing process; that is how Cole’s Closet began. Steve and Ellen Tomczyk lost their six-month-old son, Cole, to an undiagnosed illness in 1999. A year later, they were looking for a way to endure the first anniversary of their son’s death. They decided to have a get-together and asked guests to bring a new toy to donate to Fairfax Hospital, where their son spent a month during treatment. This sparked their idea for a year-round toy donation for children staying in local hospitals. They maintain a warehouse in Lorton, Virginia, where hospitals can call and request toys for their young residents at any time. Since their first toy drive, Cole’s Closet has donated over 16,000 toys to hospitals in the area.

Toys and fun for everyone!

shopping cart full of various toys and games

A cart full of fun!

Random Acts Writing Team Lead Amanda Scarangella knew she wanted to donate toys to kids this past December. After some online searching, she found Cole’s Closet. “I couldn’t pass up the chance to support kids who are having to celebrate the holidays from a hospital bed this year,” Amanda said. Feeling determined, she grabbed her partner and headed out to the shops to find an assortment of fun toys. She purchased three sets of Play-Doh, 12 stuffed animals, 11 board games, and 13 action figures in a variety of styles. She then took her donations over to the Cole’s Closet warehouse, where Toy Director Chip Gilliland was waiting to receive them.

Amanda is proud of her community and its spirit of giving, “It’s a small, local nonprofit that has thrived with the support of my Northern Virginia community. I’m so proud to see how the people around me have continued to pull together for years to support this family and their incredible nonprofit.”

man stands next to a box and bags full of toys

Toy Director Chip Gilliland in the Cole’s Closet warehouse

Amanda has also discovered a few personal connections to Cole’s Closet. Her mother organized a toy drive for Cole’s Closet through her employer while Amanda was away at college. One of Amanda’s college friends also knows the Tomczyk family and has made donations to the organization in the past. “There are so many people all around that are connected to this organization, and I’m proud to say I’ve built a connection, too,” Amanda reflected. “This will be a lifelong mission for me to continue donating toys to Cole’s Closet.”

Feeling Inspired?

If you would like to learn more about Cole’s Closet, visit their website. If you would like to connect with Random Acts, Regional Representatives would love to help you find similar opportunities in your community. As always, thank you for supporting our mission to spread kindness and compassion!