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Nov 5, 2019 11:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Firehouse Hosts Stuff-A-Truck Hoiday Fundrasier

John Stanton, Chris Collins, Kolton Kappers, James Kappers, Megan Kappers, Aryana Kappers, Zenon Tuminski, Peter Fahey, Charles Decker, Gerard Buckley, and Will Callamita.  RACHEL VALDESPINO
Nov 5, 2019 4:41 PM

Second Assistant Chief James Kappers is spearheading the Hampton Bays Fire Department’s Stuff-a-Truck Holiday Toy Drive this season. All donations benefit The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island — an organization that is close to his heart.

In 2015, Mr. Kappers’s son Kolton — who celebrated his 4th birthday on Tuesday — was born eight weeks prematurely. Mr. Kappers and his wife, Megan, as well as other family members, spent 30 days in Stony Brook University Hospital while Kolton was in the neonatal unit.

The Kappers were able to go home after the 30-day period, but then had to return to the hospital when Kolton was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a disease common to premature infants.

“My wife had to stay there while I was working,” explained Mr. Kappers. “Sleeping on the couch in the hospital was really tough. We used the fellowship room every day to get away from everything.”

The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Stony Brook is an area created by The Ronald McDonald House where families can relax and distract themselves from the anxiety of being in the hospital with their child for a long period of time. The facility includes a fully stocked kitchenette, private showers, laptops with internet access and other amenities.

“We spent 42 days there back in the hospital in Stony Brook when Kolton was readmitted. My wife and I utilized the fellowship room the whole time,” said Mr. Kappers. “The Ronald McDonald House offers a break from reality — you know not every family gets to walk out of there with their child.”

Kolton was readmitted to Stony Brook on New Year’s Eve. “You don’t really understand it all until you see it,” explained Ms. Kappers. “When he was admitted, it was New Year’s Eve, and to see all of those kids there, it’s just so sad.”

Ms. Kappers said the family room is what kept her standing during Kolton’s long stays at the hospital. “It brings tears to my eyes every time,” she said.

The Kappers also stayed at The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in New Hyde Park when Kolton had to have surgery.

“The biggest thing I saw was that a lot of kids had siblings, and they can’t really understand what’s going on,” Mr. Kappers explained. “But you can say, ‘Hey, your sibling can’t see you right now, but they wanted to give you this.’ This took away a lot of what was going on around us — it brought joy to the kids for that moment, it made them laugh for a little bit.”

Mr. Kappers explained that he always wanted to give back to The Ronald McDonald House after all the unconditional love the family room and the house showed him and his family, so it made perfect sense to dedicate the toy drive to the organization.

Visitors are able to drop off unwrapped toys to the Hampton Bays Firehouse on Montauk Highway until midnight on December 11. Toys for all genders, for ages up to 21, will be accepted. No plush or stuffed toys, or toy weapons, will be accepted.

There also is an Amazon wish list on which toys can be purchased and shipped directly to the firehouse.

The donated toys will be picked up on December 19, and will be taken to The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, where they will be split between the house and the family room at Stony Brook.

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