CHICAGO — After losing her son in a tragic accident, one local woman has been bringing holiday joy to children and families in need while keeping her son’s memory alive.
“I tell a lot of people that I will be a grieving mother for the rest of my life and I’ve made peace with that,” Danielle Babiarz said.
This holiday marks the 11th Christmas without her son Vincent.
Babiarz lost her then-5-year-old son in a tragic drowning accident. To help ease the pain, she has found comfort in helping children in need.
“The thing that gets me through a lot of the times is knowing I can pass on his legacy,” Babiarz said.
She hosts the Vincent Babiarz Toy Drive every holiday season in his memory, collecting toys and money to help benefit Chicago’s Lakeview pantry.
“We’ve had years where we’ve had 700 gifts and the van is constantly going back and forth to drop the gifts off at the warehouse,” Babiarz said.
In the years since, the toy drive has become something the Lakeview Pantry has grown to rely on.
“Since before the pandemic until now, we are serving three times as many families that have children so the need is even greater,” pantry manager Jennie Hull said.
This toy drive is one Babiarz inherited from the original founders, Su Berminham and Emily Haite, who started it at Birmingham’s condo in 1998.
Babiarz and Berminham’s children were friends when Vincent died, so they thought it was fitting to name the drive in Vincent’s honor.
“It seemed like the appropriate thing to do, it was a really nice way to honor his legacy and what he meant to the community and friends,” Berminham said.
Over the years, the drive has brought in more than 10,000 toys and is now held at Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville.
For Babiarz, organizing the drive every year has been a therapeutic way to pass on her son’s legacy.
“It’s giving a grieving hope to a grieving mom, at the same time giving a lot of parents in Chicago the opportunity to give their child a great Christmas,” Babiarz said.
Those who are interested in donating can visit here.