Toy Drive Supports UNC Children’s

Ward family handed off the donations to UNC Health staff
At just 11 years old, Lilly Ward found out there was something wrong with her kidneys.

Rising blood pressure sent her to the family pediatrician, Dr. Chris Wilson, who discovered that Lilly had a kidney issue and pointed the Wards in the direction of UNC Children’s. Lilly went through a lengthy journey and discovered she has two kidney diseases — glomerulonephritis and a benign disease called thin basement membrane, a rare disorder diagnosed in less than 1% of the population.

For two years, Lilly was in and out of UNC Children’s for multiple types of treatment. In June of 2022, she went into remission. A more recent set of labs were drawn and it was determined Lilly could come out of remission because cells had begun to repopulate. To be proactive, she received an infusion that, according to her mom, Lori Ward, “went perfect” in April 2023.

Before her remission, in March 2022, Lilly’s family organized an act of kindness day, visiting local businesses with the intention of raising awareness for kidney disease. They gathered a few gift cards, but the idea never gained momentum. For National Kidney Disease Awareness Month in 2023, Lilly wanted to make a bigger impact by helping other kids that were at UNC Children’s. That’s when Lori came up with the idea of a toy drive.

“[Lilly] loved the idea of putting things in kids’ hands, because she remembers what it was like being in the hospital,” Lori said. “We didn’t know how it would turn out, but Lilly and I sat down and made a wish list.”

What started as a Facebook post announcing a goal of raising $300 for kids being treated at UNC Children’s ended up raising more than $4,000 with hundreds of toys donated by community members.

“It was surprising to me we got all that stuff,” said Lilly. “I was thinking we might fill up a small little corner in our house, but we would get 10 or 15 donations daily, and it filled up half the room.”

The Ward family intends on doing another toy drive in March 2024 and is already preparing with an official Facebook page and a website for the event. They plan to call it Unfiltered Love from Lilly because of how her kidney filters are affected by the disease.

“We’re so grateful for the generous in-kind donations that we receive from the community, including patients and families who have firsthand experience with hospitalization and know exactly what speaks to our patients’ needs,” said Stephanie McAdams, assistant director of rehabilitation therapies at UNC Health.

Read more about the toy drive…

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