Holiday Toy Train makes stop in Arverne, thrilling children of all ages in the Rockaways

St. John’s Holiday Toy Train
The folks from St. John’s Episcopal Hospital hosted their annual Holiday Toy Train distribution for the families and children of the Rockaways. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The Toy Train pulled into the Arverne 72nd Street YMCA for the second straight year to provide gifts to youngsters on Dec. 16.

The St. John’s ICARE Foundation and the St. John’s Episcopal Auxiliary teamed up with leading children’s entertainment company Spin Master for the annual Holiday Toy Train “Grab & Go” Express in the gymnasium at 207 Beach 73rd St., bringing joy to 500 pre-registered families within the Rockaway communities.

“With the cost of food and toys rising, I think it means a lot for them to be able to come here and receive free toys. It’s a big assistance,” ICARE President Renee Hastick-Motes said. “We are extremely grateful to be able to provide support to our community in many different ways and we are always working hard every day to make sure that we are the healthcare provider of choice in the Rockaways.”

St. John’s ICARE Foundation and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Auxiliary host a Holiday Toy Train giveaway for over 500 families in the Rockaways community at the Arverne YMCA on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Families were greeted by characters from Paw Patrol before they walked through the Toy Train and picked up gifts based on their ages. They then had the opportunity to visit Santa and take photos before leaving the gymnasium.

(Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Hastick-Motes is also vice president of external affairs for Episcopal Health Services and she described how her team serves the community all year long.

“Episcopal Health Services is not only the organization that oversees the only hospital on the Rockaway peninsula, we’re more than that,” Hatick-Motes said. “We try to be as supportive as we can to the community. We understand that there are many social determinants of health where we have to be of assistance and not just health care. If a family doesn’t have food, if a family doesn’t have adequate transportation, if a family doesn’t have holiday toys to give their children, we want to be able to help, to support, to provide for them.”

(Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The ICARE Foundation was founded a year ago to support the hospital’s initiatives by fostering a culture of philanthropy. ICARE stands for Innovation, Compassion, Respect and Empathy and the organization raises awareness and funds to support equipment, capital projects, special programs and community initiatives.

“How do you choose between the mortgage or rent and toys and food? It’s really tough, it’s very, very tough, so we get a lot of joy today,” ICARE Foundation Executive Director Nancy Leghart said. “We wanted it to be a nice fun experience, kind of like a Polar Express experience.”

Judging by the smiles on the faces of the children, it was mission accomplished once again.

“We just think it’s important we operate outside of just being a health facility,” Hastick-Motes said. “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is just the best thing ever.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.