Family Turns Grief Into Gift For Community With Toy Drive For Son’s Birthday

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DES MOINES, Iowa –Drake Guthrie would have turned 8 this year, but his family will celebrate his birthday this weekend without him.

“Drake was born September 18th of 2011. He was born on his due date. He was a very healthy baby. 9 pounds 3 ounces. He was such a little rock star,” said Mom Jennifer Guthrie.

“Then randomly around his 1st birthday, we just noticed he started to feel run down,” she said.

At first, doctors thought Drake had an ear infection, then another ear infection, and a sinus infection. “The day of diagnosis, if we hadn`t gotten to the hospital in time, he probably would have passed away at home that night. His ear drum had ruptured, his heart beat was in the 200`s per minute and he just couldn`t breathe right,’ said Guthrie.

He was diagnosed with leukemia on October 26th, 2012. He went through six months of treatment, four rounds of chemotherapy, and long hospitalizations.

They enjoyed five months at home cancer free, but they learned he relapsed on August 23rd of 2013 at a regular check-up. “They called us back and said you need to sit down, and I knew,” said Jennifer.

“They said his blood count is coming back crazy again,” said Jennifer. Treatment moved quickly after that. He had a bone marrow transplant in Minnesota.

“Unfortunately, all of the medications that they provide to the kids to get their body to accept that transplant did too many things on the inside. It shut down his liver, it shut down his kidneys, he was put on dialysis. He retained a lot of fluid, and unfortunately he developed some sort of infection about a week before he passed away,” said Jennifer.

“The day that they told us, he lasted five more days. So, we would hold his hand, and there for a couple days, you knew he was there. You knew he could hear you. He could squeeze your hand, even though he had a breathing tube. He would sit there and kind of move a little bit. All of a sudden his heart just stopped. I think that is the worst thing as a parent. You feel their chest and you just don`t feel that heartbeat anymore. You just can`t describe it. I felt a part of my heart leave that day with him.”

Now six years later, his family celebrates his birthday with a big party. They host Drake’s Toy Chest Extravaganza every September. “All we ask is people bring a brand new, non-stuffed toy to give to Blank. In return, we host a cookout for roughly 300 people,” said Jennifer.

This is the sixth year for the toy drive. Last year, they collected 1,500 items, including $1,000 worth of cash and gift cards for Blank Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Department. “For us, holding this toy drive, we can still celebrate him. It still brings everybody together. We can still see we have that support system. It`s unfair what happened, we can`t change it, we can`t bring him back, but we can definitely make sure we try to make a difference in the community,” said Jennifer.

Drake’s Toy Chest Extravaganza Toy Drive will take place Saturday, September 21st. It’s from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Sunrise Park in Ankeny.

This is wish list from Blank Children’s Hospital Child Life Department:

Gift Criteria

All toys must be new. We cannot accept used toys.

We do not accept stuffed animals of any kind (new or used) due to infection control concerns.

Gifts must be latex free (including duct tape)

Gifts must be non-violent

No candy or food


Gifts We Can Always Use                                                           Gifts We Currently Have Enough

*Crayola Crayons                                                                      *Board Games

*Play-Doh (specifically mini sizes)                                               *Matchbox/Hotwheels Cars

*C Batteries                                                                              *Barbies

*Crayola Washable Kid’s Paint, set of 10                                     *Card Games

Bottles                                                                                   *Journals/Notebooks

*Gift Cards ($10 and $15 increments to                                       *Glitter Glue

*Target, Walmart, ITunes, Amazon)                                            *Markers

*New Release DVDs                                                                  *Sidewalk Chalk

(Disney/Pixar/Dream Works & PG-13)                                       *Dry Erase Markers


Arts & Crafts                                                                             Inpatient Bedside Items

*Window Paint/Markers                                                            *Lullabies CDS

*Dot Paint                                                                *Crib Mobiles/Music Box

*Beads & Foam Beads                                                               *Infant Mirrors

*Crayola Kids Washable Paint (10packs)                      *Sound Machines

*Glitter                                                                                    *DVDs

*Coloring Books                                                                        Distraction Items (see our Amazon Wish List)

*Embroidery Floss (for friendship bracelets)                *Pinwheels

*Scratch Art                                                                             *Stress Balls

*Googly Eyes                                                                            *Cosmic Ray Wands

* White Painting Canvases (small sizes)                                       *Bubbles (small/mini bottles)

*New Scrapbooks and Scrapbook Supplies

(for the NICU)


Play Items(Infant/Toddler)                                                        School Age Activities

*Plastic Infant Toys & Rattles                                                     *Superhero Action Figures

*Light Up/Musical Toys                                                             *Disney Princess Playsets

*Pop-Up Toys                                                                           *Lego Sets (small and medium box sets)

*Character Toys (all washable)                                   *Lego Friend Sets (small and medium box sets)

-Doc McStuffins                                                        *Uno Card Games

-Dora the Explorer                                                    Positive Image Items

-Elmo                                                                       *Hair Accessories (Infant-Teen)

-Thomas the Train                                                     *New Pajamas (All sizes)

-Mickey/Minnie Mouse                                             *Underwear (size 2T-8)

-Jake and the Neverland Pirates                 *Nail Decals

*Shape Sorters                                                                         *Nail Polish

*Medical Kits                                                                            *Temporary Tattoos

*Baby Dolls (hard bodies/washable)

*Doll Clothes and Doll Accessories

*Cash Registers

*Little People


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