SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nico Villanueva experienced a lot at a young age. He was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome & Dyskeratosis Congenita, a blood disorder that required two bone marrow transplants before he turned four years old.
Knowing what it was like to have to spend time in a hospital, the 11-year-old asked his mom if he could give toys to the kids at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“I said your birthday is coming up – he’s like ‘yeah, I can ask my friends to donate with me to the hospital,’” said Veronica Villanueva, his mother.
“Giving makes people feel good on both sides. Like if you give, you feel happy the other people are happy. And the other person is happy that someone else gave them something,” said Nico.
Instead of birthday gifts, he asked his friends for toys to give to the patients.
“When you play with toys – you feel joy,” he said.
It's a joy that can be a nice distraction from all the scary and painful moments in the hospital.
“Kind of distancing them from what’s going on in their life and the negative things – and being able to bring a sense of healing because kids are meant to play,” said Carter Donaldson with Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Nico sells homemade goods – popsicles and granola - to raise money for the toy donations.
“It’s a great thing for other kids to know they can do big changes with a small act,” said Veronica.
“He’s inspiring a community of people around him. Neighbors, friends, classmates, family to step up with him,” said Donaldson.
“They (PCH) do so much for the kids and it’s really important giving back,” said Nico.
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