Maggie Flaherty spent most of her early youth in hospitals.
Her sister, Elizabeth “Ellie,” was terminally ill with a degenerative neurological disease that caused her to start having seizures at just 11 weeks old.
When she was seven months old, Ellie was entered into home-based pediatric hospice care. Her brain started deteriorating overtime and the disease eventually killed her when she was 3. From the time Flaherty was 3 until she was 5, she was in and out of three different hospitals in the Virginia constantly to visit her.
“Maggie didn’t know until Ellie’s last week that this diagnosis would take her sister’s life, although she often asked about it,” said Flaherty’s mom, Terese.
Whenever Ellie got sick, she could be in the hospital for months at a time. Flaherty, 17, who lives part-time in Quechee and part-time in Massachusetts, frequently visited her sister, spending time at hospital playrooms.
“Ellie’s needs were allconsuming,” Terese said.
Because of her experience, Flaherty is organizing her first toy drive that she calls “More Than A Toy Drive” at the Quechee Balloon Festival this weekend to benefit the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
She’ll be collecting new items including books, crafts, Play-Doh, games and toys.
“I know the day she brings the donations, cards, and bookmarks to CHaD will be an emotional one because this really hits home for her,” Terese said.
Flaherty attends the Quechee Balloon Festival every year. She started organizing the toy drive in April. Flaherty got craft donations from ArtisTree and Purple Crayon so that kids can come to make cards and bookmarks.
“It’s been a lot,” said Flaherty.
Flaherty will be living in Quechee this summer. She wants to make the toy drive an annual event.
“I felt that this was a good way to give back because it’s personal to me,” she said. “I love Quechee and I would love to give back to the community.”
The Quechee Balloon Festival is being held June 13-15. Click here for more information.