Video: Mich. officer’s family, inspired by daughter’s cancer battle, leads annual toy drive
In previous years, the Harper Toy Drive has donated more than 1,000 toys to children receiving cancer treatment at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
By Sergeant Mark Pulford
Ann Arbor Police Department
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Officer Shellie Mathis, a dedicated 24-year veteran of the Ann Arbor Police Department, has a personal connection to her mission of bringing holiday joy to children in need. In 2020, Mathis’ ten-year-old daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain tumor. Harper’s courageous battle with cancer has spanned over three years, including a recent relapse, which led to a life-changing experience during her treatment at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
During her stay at the hospital, Harper was deeply impacted by the compassionate care provided by the child life specialists. One memorable moment was when she received toys from the hospital’s toy store during the holiday season, lifting her spirits and providing hope. Inspired by the kindness she experienced, Harper sought a way to give back.
The Mathis family, in collaboration with the Ann Arbor Police Department, established the Harper Toy Drive. This year marks the third edition of the heartwarming initiative, which will run from November 10, 2023, through December 12, 2023. New, unwrapped toys are being collected for donation to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Toy donation boxes can be found at key locations across Ann Arbor, including the Ann Arbor Police Department, the University of Michigan Police Department and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Once every toy has been collected, local law enforcement officials participate in the uplifting event by decorating their patrol cars in festive holiday themes. The law enforcement convoy then escorts Harper to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where nurses and staff eagerly await her arrival, eager to accept the generous donation.
“Harper is a true inspiration, and it is heart-warming to witness the unwavering support of her sister, Payton, and their parents, who come together to make this special event happen,” Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Mark Pulford said. “It really takes an entire community coming together that makes this drive successful.”
Harper’s Toy Drive has gained remarkable popularity over the years and has become one of the hospital’s largest toy drives. In previous years, the initiative has successfully collected over 1,000 toys to bring joy to children during the holiday season. Parents of children staying at the hospital have the opportunity to select toys for their sick children and their siblings, with hospital staff dressing up as cheerful elves to deliver the gifts. There is always a concern that we will not collect enough toys for donation, so every new toy, big or small, is welcomed.