Sean Duggan was a bright, energetic child. He was full of life, and sports were his passion. He always gave 100 percent, and backing down was not something he knew how to do. So when he was diagnosed with a Rhabdoid Tumor in his spinal cavity in October 2007, he fought it fiercely, enduring treatment without complaint and insisting on living his life as normally as he could. He was an inspiration to his family, his friends, and his community.
Sean lost his battle with cancer on March 18, 2009, but his parents, Jill and John Duggan, wanted his legacy to be a positive one. As Sean's August 7 birthday approached, his mother decided she would rather honor her son with positive action than have his birthday become a sad occasion every year. And so was born The Sean Duggan Foundation's "Never Back Down" toy drive was born.
"As an honor and tribute to him, she would do a toy drive at the hospital and collect a lot of toys and bring them up there," John Duggan said. "Because when he was going through radiation and chemo and everything, he would pick out a toy or something. It would just be something of a distraction and take your mind off of being sick, or worrying, or anything else. So she decided that would be a fitting way to honor his memory, is to go up there and help some other kids that are in the same situation."
Every year since 2009, the Duggan family, along with some friends and other members of the Frankfort community, have collected toy donations and delivered them to Children's Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children's Hospital) on Sean's birthday. According to John Duggan, they collected approximately 850 toys last year, and they hope to raise that figure with this year's fourth annual Never Back Down toy drive, thanks to new donation drop-off points such as 's preschool office, 's restaurant in Frankfort and Palos Park, and Triple R Child Care in Mokena.
Duggan said they limit their collection to only toys, to avoid excluding people who want to contribute but wouldn't be able to afford things like cash donations or charity golf outings that are often associated with these kinds of fundraising efforts.
"We feel like when you leave it open to something like toys in any age group and any price range, somebody could feel good about making a donation even if they go to the dollar store and buy something for one dollar," he said. "For us, we feel like it enables many more people to participate."
In terms of donation guidelines, the foundation is asking for any and all new, unwrapped toys appropriate for children of any age, from newborns to 18-year-olds. Duggan noted that while they receive plenty of toys for older children, the selection for the hospital's youngest patients can often be sparse.
"We get very minimal amounts of baby and infant toys," he said. "I think people just don't think that, but there's some smaller kids in there, that are a couple months old or a year old."
The deadline for donations is August 3, which allows the Duggan family time to collect all of the toys and prepare to bring them to Lurie Children's Hospital's Oncology floor on August 7. Donations will be accepted at any of the following locations:
- - Preschool Office
- - Narthex
- - Concession Stand
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