MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s easy to be a superhero to hundreds of children in the Mid-south. All you have to do is donate to the Superhero Toy Drive.
It has an especially important meaning for Memphis mom Airren Smith who also hopes it becomes an annual tradition. Her son, 4-year-old Alando Dai’Shawn Smith -- or Dai Dai as she called him -- loved to dance.
“Oh he was the life of the party child," said Smith.
But Dai Dai’s greatest love was of superheroes, especially Spider Man.
Smith remembered an event at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital when a couple of Superhero characters showed up, although stage 4 Neuroblastoma left Dai Dai unable to walk and in a wheel chair.
“He got out the wheel chair and walked to Spider Man and Batman,” she said.
Dai Dai lost his nine-month battle with the evil that invaded his little body in December 2018. But his memory lives on, thanks in part to the Louisville, Kentucky-based Childhood Cancer Family Fund, which collects Christmas gifts for Target House families.
Mike Crask founded the organization about a year ago to help parents give gifts to not only children who are St. Jude patients but also their siblings.
“They have a free Christmas shop every year,” said Crask. “It’s over three days. The parents get to come in and shop for their kids for free, it doesn’t cost them anything.”
Crask and Smith joined forces after she contacted him on Facebook to donate some of Dai Dai’s toys to the Childhood Cancer Family Fund. The single mother of two knows first-hand how difficult it is to give your kids anything outside of their needs when one of your children is in the middle of a battle for their lives.
“So I had no source of income, you know. I was there at St. Jude the whole nine months,” said Smith. “When I was there, and people would donate to us, I would like to do the same thing. You know, one of his favorite toys could be another kid’s favorite toy. Parents that’s at St. Jude, they really can’t do much for their child. They lost their job, they ain’t got no other support, you know? It takes somebody to step up and help reach the family.”
As you can imagine, Crask has met a lot of families struggling through childhood cancer. But he was so impressed with Smith’s donation and her strength, he wanted to honor her and her son.
“And it just hit me. I was like, you know we’re doing a toy drive in Louisville, why don’t we do one in Memphis,” said Crask.
You can find the Superhero Toy Drive bins at any Papa John’s location throughout Memphis. Just drop off any new, unopened toy for children age newborn to 19 years from Nov. 1 through Nov. 30. Saturday, Nov. 9 is being called Dai Dai’s Toy Drop Off at the Papa John’s location where Airren works as a manager and driver. That’s at 3275 Austin Peay Highway.
Everyone who donates a new superhero toy at that location will get a free slice of pizza and a drink. There will also be balloons, face painting and temporary tattoos for kids, and there might even be a superhero appearance, just the way Dai Dai would have liked it.
His mom hopes the toys will bring joy and happiness to some other child and the drive will keep Dai Dai’s superhero spirit alive.