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updated: 8/13/2012 1:29 PM

Scout's toy drive gives 'Matthew's Mission' a boost

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  • Blake Maley and Matthew Devine with some of the toys the drive collected.

    Blake Maley and Matthew Devine with some of the toys the drive collected.
    Courtesy of Kim Maley


Blake Maley waited until Children's Memorial Hospital made the move to the new Ann and Robert Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, before embarking on his Eagle Scout project.

Turns out, it was a good thing.

Blake and members of his Boy Scout Troop 140, based at St. Mary Church in Buffalo Grove, collected more than 600 toys for the hospital's pediatric oncology unit.

"It was pretty big," says Blake, who begins his freshman year at Buffalo Grove High School this week. "The response was much bigger than I expected."

He says the inspiration for his project was the grandson of his neighbor in Arlington Heights, who is doing well after surviving a rare blood disorder, that not treated would have developed into an aggressive form of leukemia.

Matthew Devine of Glenview now is getting ready to go back to school, but over the last four years he has spent more than 100 days in the hospital while enduring two rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, seven surgeries and two bone marrow transplants.

"He is doing great," says his mother, Jennifer. "He is entering 4th grade this year and is considered healthy. He goes to clinic up in Wisconsin every three months for blood work and checkups, but it's a great problem to have."

His Arlington Heights grandmother, Sue Ellen Burlini, is the former senior and disabled services coordinator for Wheeling Township, while his grandfather is award-winning sculptor Joseph Burlini.

One year after Matthew's diagnosis, his family formed "Matthew's Mission," to collect toys for other children undergoing cancer procedures where he was treated, at Children's Memorial Hospital and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"When I heard about (Matthew's Mission) I was really interested," said Blake, who had been looking for an Eagle Scout project that helped children.

He hopes to deliver the toys to Lurie Children's Hospital next week, and if possible with Matthew.

Officials at the hospital say that they can never have enough toys. For starters, they were pleased to learn of a summer collection drive, since they tend to receive more donations around the holidays.

Mostly, they were happy to hear of the young Eagle Scout candidate who was interested in helping other children.

"We're thrilled when young people take an active interest in helping others," says Michelle Mascaro, director of Spiritual Care Services and ParentWise at the hospital. "The toys are distributed by our Child Life Department, and just the fact that they are brought with such joy and enthusiasm, carries over to the kids."

Matthew, too, takes an active role in the toy distribution through his organization, helping to reach out to children who are going through what he did.

"He was away from home for more than eight months in total," his mother says. "Many days he had to endure unpleasant things and a little toy would make him smile."

Their goal in starting Matthew's Mission was simple: "Putting a smile on a sick child's face with a simple toy."

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