Gift giving doesn’t stop when the holidays are over.
Helen Zhu’s family is new to Port Washington, but that did not prevent her from recruiting Port kids to fulfill a mission she and her family have completed for the last three years—to brighten the lives of youngsters.
Students from Weber Middle School and Schreiber High School delivered donated gifts to families with babies who have retinoblastoma (RB) cancer, a type of eye cancer that begins in the back of the eye (retina) and is commonly found in children.
“Over three years ago, a friend of mine who was volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House came across a few kids with RB cancer who were traveling from China and living on-site at Ronald McDonald,” said Zhu, explaining how she began her yearly deliveries. “She thought they were going through a lot of challenges and she started creating social media groups and asking if anyone was interested in helping them. I was one of the first people who got involved and then I initiated getting strollers for the babies.”
Zhu explained that many of the families make yearly deliveries from China to the U.S. to get treatments for their children with RB cancer.
“Some families sell everything they have to come here and save their baby’s life,” said Zhu, a former Great Neck resident. “Me, my husband and my kids would go around and collect gifts and run birthday parties for the kids. The first year I helped, when Christmas came, I thought it might be a good idea to collect donated gifts. Me and my three kids volunteered. I dressed up as Santa and we spent hours delivering gifts to families’ homes on Christmas day.”
This year, the Zhu family along with Port families and other Long Island families delivered more than 60 gifts to 26 families all over Long Island, from Brookhaven to Fresh Meadows.
The Zhu family spent seven hours delivering gifts on a recent winter day, walking the freezing streets of Queens and Long Island to bring children the gifts from their wish lists and more—all in an effort to provide joy that stretches well beyond the holidays.
“We’re really lucky we have people in the town who are very warm-hearted,” said Zhu. “Some people donated like 10 or 15 gifts. We all have kids and we know just having a cold is so challenging. Imagine these families. These babies have cancer and it’s not curable in their country and they have to come across the world for help and it’s scary for these families. We feel it’s great to give them a little comfort and make them feel welcome.”