Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Anna O’Connor, 12, from Broad Channel, is honored with the first-ever Caring Kids Award from NYMetro Parents, the parenting division of Davler Media Group encompassing seven regional print magazines including Big Apple Parent, Brooklyn Parent and Westchester Parent and website www.nymetroparents.com.
Anna’s winning entry was among the seven that were selected from more than 100 submissions for volunteer and community service projects undertaken by children ages six to 15, in New York City, Rockland and Westchester counties, and Long Island. Each honoree is being awarded a framed certificate, a $500 cash honorarium and editorial coverage in their local NYMetroParents magazine, on the NYMetroParents website and its various social media platforms including Facebook.
O’Connor was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and faced an extremely hard battle. She was in treatment at Cohen Children's Hospital for more than two-and-a-half years.
According to O’Connor’s mom, Deborah O’Connor, four years ago, when Anna was leaving the hospital to celebrate Christmas at home, she said that she felt bad about leaving her friends behind in the hospital. “She was concerned that they weren’t receiving any holiday gifts. So she came up with the idea that she would use her holiday money to buy gifts for her friends,” Deborah O’Connor said.
“I was so proud and inspired by Anna’s little act of kindness that I wrote a status on Facebook letting friends and family know about Anna’s gift-giving plans. Lo and behold, we had over 100 presents stocked in our living room. It was unbelievable!” O’Connor exclaimed.
The amount of gifts they have received every year since then has grown. “The first year we collected 600 gifts, the second and third years, 700, and this past year we delivered over 950 gifts,” O’Connor said. “We have never collected less than 700 gifts in the past three years!”
To date, O’Connor has donated more than 2,000 brand new toys to both Cohen’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. According to Anna’s mum, this little angel makes it her business to personally count, stack bags and load all the gifts. “As a child, who has endured quite a battle with leukemia and the side effects from chemo, she steadfastly continues her efforts to help other children battling cancer, and asks for nothing in return,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor and her family are now officially local celebrities. After hearing about Anna’s humanitarian efforts, she and her family were featured on cable news channel, NY1. Then a representative from Duane Reade heard about Anna, and had the company donate a large amount of toys from seven stores. To top it all off, Anna’s mom said that a producer from the TLC cable news channel program, Cake Boss contacted the family and pledged that as a thank you to Anna and her family, they will be sending a special cake for the Broad Channel community’s Christmas Tree Lighting this coming December.
So guess who entered Anna in NYMetro Parents’ first-ever Caring Kids Award? None other than her mom. “For years I followed NYMetro Parents’ magazines. They have really great articles that give me ideas on things I can do with my children,” O’Connor said. “I saw the posting about the competition, and decided to enter Anna. I was so taken aback, when we were contacted with the wonderful news that Anna won!”
O’Connor continued, “This all shows that humanity is still there. Despite everything that is going on in the world, I always tell my children, “It’s not about what you get, it’s what you give.”
According to O’Connor, today Anna is doing great. She is in the seventh grade at St. Camillus in Rockaway. She has two siblings, Amanda, age 10 and Alyssa, age 17, who both help Anna with her annual toy drive. “As a family we have been through a lot with Anna’s health battles. However, we are all stronger than ever, thanks to Anna’s giving heart and the wonderful Broad Channel community that we love,” O’Connor said.