Chicago 7th grader organizes toy drive in memory of best buddy who died of DIPG


CHICAGO — A toy drive spearheaded by a Chicago seventh-grader in memory of his best buddy is helping many in the community.

On the city’s South Side, this may be the quintessential version of tough love.

Welcome to Letz Box Chicago. It’s a big part of a toy drive that is like no other.

“It’s the way I was raised,” Dan Letz said. “If you have the opportunity to give back, do it as much as possible.”

Letz is the owner and trains a fair amount of the city’s first responders. Alongside them is seventh-grader Jack Richardson, who lost his best buddy Anthony Pappalas to a rare brain tumor, DIPG, several years ago.

So it was only right to have the holiday goodies dropped off here for a toy drive that was started by Jack in memory of his number one bud.

It was a fast friendship formed at pre-school.

When Anthony was first diagnosed, Jack sold lemonade on the corner to help the family’s medical costs.

Since then, Jack’s efforts have only gotten bigger and better. His mom’s heart bursts with pride.

“Very proud of Jack,” his mom, Dawn Richardson, said. “He spearheads the toy drive. He enjoys seeing the toys come in, wrapping up all the boxes and dropping off to Lurie’s”

WGN brought you Anthony’s story in recent weeks: How the space-crazy kid was invited down by NASA’s engineers to its lab in Alabama, where he and his brothers Luke and Danny and mom, Katie, got the VIP tour.

They signed the Artemis 1 rocket that is now in space on a mission to orbit the moon.

Katie said in her son’s wake, the toys go to kids at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital.

“Every year he does this,” Katie Gaskin said. “Every year it’s bigger and better and it just brings a smile to the faces of the kids who were going through some really hard times and it’s meaningful to him and it’s obviously meaningful to all of the kids at Lurie’s.”

The cops in District 22 are all about this toy drive as well.

Katie is married to Ruben, and tactical officer and on this assignment, his team and his family have joined forces of goodwill.

Working through the pain of Anthony’s loss, teaching them the ins and outs of boxing.

To take their pain and transform it into a force for something good, for some other kids at Lurie’s who are waging a different kind of fight.

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