For the past five years, a local family has made donations to an annual toy drive. This year, Shawn and Brandi Parsons have decided to take things a step further.

THE ISSUE: Local children undergo anxiety and fear when hit with an emergency medical situation.

LOCAL IMPACT: An area couple is stepping up their role in making donations to another local nonprofit — Nick's Treasure — that seeks to comfort children during stressful events, like hospital procedures.

For the past five years, a local family has made donations to an annual toy drive. This year, Shawn and Brandi Parsons have decided to take things a step further.

The couple has taken time off work and — along with son, Caden — are living in an RV manning a fireworks stand until the Fourth of July.

The toy drive is close to their hearts, as they both routinely work around children — and often under uneasy circumstances.

Brandi is the Emergency Room (ER) director at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital, and Shawn, employed by the Shawnee Police Department, serves as a resource officer at Shawnee High School.

He said the SPD has been very accommodating of his unusual vacation request.

Brandi said, as an ER nurse, she sees how the gift of a small toy can comfort a child during an uncertain and sometimes scary situation.

“There are totes full of toys in several departments at the hospital — like surgery, radiology, acute care, the emergency room and the lab,” she said.

Brandi said even the simple act of using a stuffed animal to familiarize a child with what's coming can be enough to help ease the jitters.

“Pretending a Teddy Bear is the patient and walking through the procedure — like listening to a heartbeat or taking its temperature — can be comforting,” she said.

Sometimes the child isn't the patient.

Brandi said the toys also are sometimes given to children upset or anxious about a family member who is the patient.

With all those nervous children comes the need for lots of toys.

Brandi said Nick's Treasure Toy Drive gave the hospital 4,500 toys last year.

Even though that's a lot of toys, often the hospital starts to run out up to three or four months before the annual delivery of donations comes back around.

The Parsons' goal is to be able to purchase 5,000 toys with funds raised through the fireworks stand.

She said they get paid commission; all the proceeds will go toward the purchase of brand new toys for Nick's toy drive.

Shawn said after his wife had the idea to do the fireworks stand, their friends jumped right in.

“We didn't have to ask for help at all,” he said. “Our friends, Trevor and Holly Robertson, have been a great help to us.”

He said employees at the convenience store next door also have been very kind, helping out with things like ice, while the family makes a temporary home of the site.

“We're really blessed to get to do it,” he said.

Shawn said since the opening Tuesday the couple has encountered all kinds of customers.

Their favorite, so far, has been an 8-year-old who goes by the nickname, Doc.

“He's been here every day so far,” Shawn said. “He's a fun kid.”

Committing to a three-year contract with Rudy's Fireworks of Choctaw, owned by Rudy Forrest, the couple is determined to make the most of their vacation time to positively impact the lives of children encountering difficult situations.

Nick's Treasure

The toy drive began after Nicholas Birchett passed away as a passenger in a car accident December 2011. He was 15 years old. His family recalled Nick’s love for both the young and old and started Nick’s Treasure.

The Facebook page reads, “Our hope is that something as simple as a toy, gifted with a smile, will bring a moment of joy in an otherwise difficult situation.”

In the last three years, Nick’s inspiration has enabled us to donate more than 3,700 toys to the Pediatric Unit at St. Anthony’s, the post reads.

Each year Nick's family does the toy drive, and those toys come to the hospital so we can give them to our pediatric patients to help ease their anxiety,” Carla Tollet, PR, Communications, Marketing Consultant at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital said.

The Parsons are raising money because they see the impact the toys have for the little ones, Tollet said.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/NicksTreasureToyDrive/.

Shawn said the stand — on the southeast corner of State Highways 9 and 102, next to Spring Hill convenience store — is open from 10 a.m. until midnight daily, through July 4.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.