Macedonia girls work to make season brighter for sick children

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Lilly James, left, 9, and sister Kiley, 10, stand with the gift bags they and their family helped collect for Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

MACEDONIA – Last holiday season, Lilly James, the youngest child of Brian and Jessica James, told her parents that instead of giving her toys, she’s rather see gifts go to the children at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. 

“She came to us and said all she wanted for Christmas is to give toys to the sick kids at the hospital,” said Jessica, who works in healthcare. “She didn’t even make a Christmas list. Even when she went to see Santa, that’s what she told him, she wanted toys to go to the kids at the hospital.”

That Christmas, the family put together about 27 gifts to donate to the children at the hospital, Jessica said. This year, Jessica said she posted a request for donations “on a couple groups I follow.” The result was an outpouring of support.

“This year we probably collected well over $1,500,” Jessica said. “We had over 300 plus gifts. The gifts were packed tight in my van from the first row of seats to the trunk area.”

The family went to pick up additional gifts using the monetary donations that were sent.

“The assistant manager and manager found out what we were doing and donated money right on the spot,” she said.

Gift bags were made for every age from infant to teens, and each bag had four or five items, Jessica said. Items ranged from teething rings and rattles to lip gloss, Play-doh and coloring books.

“We went shop crazy for these kids,” Jessica said.

Lilly, who is now 9 and a student at Ledgeview Elementary School, said she first got the idea watching videos of people donating gifts to children who were in the hospital.

“That’s how I figured I wanted to do it,” Lilly said.

Does she want to continue collecting gifts and donations next year?

“I’m doing it every year,” Lilly replied, her voice full of confidence.

Lilly’s older sister Kiley, 10, and a student at Lee Eaton Elementary, said she also helped out on a limited basis due to her commitment to gymnastics. Jessica added that Kiley is a national champion gymnast.

In addition, Brian and Jessica have two sons, ages 17 and 14.

Jessica said the family is going to try to start a non-profit foundation and continue providing support for those in need.

“That is our ultimate goal,” Jessica said. “We are networking now. Even in the time of COVID, this shows how much people care.”

Reporter April Helms can be reached at