Abbey’s annual tradition
7-year-old spends her own money on hundreds of toys she gives away
Sarah Weiser / The Herald
Abbey Aney, 7, hugs her brother, Connor, 4, as she organizes the toys she plans on donating to the Sky Valley Food Bank on Wednesday at her family’s home in Monroe. This is the third year that Abbey has saved her own money, from her allowance and her birthday, to buy and donate the toys.
Sarah Weiser / The Herald
Abbey Aney, 7, listens as her mother, Jodie, talks about Abbey’s desire to donate toys to the Sky Valley Food Bank.
“I have no idea where this comes from within her, but it’s there,” her mother, Jodie Aney, said in the 2009 article.
At 7, the Monroe girl is a year older. She’s a few inches taller and is now a fan of the cute boys on the Nickelodeon TV show, “Big Time Rush.” One thing hasn’t changed. Abbey’s outsized generosity will once again bring Christmas cheer to hundreds of Monroe-area children.
After school Wednesday, Abbey sat near her family’s Christmas tree organizing hundreds of toys she bought with her own money. During a three-hour shopping trip with her mom to Monroe’s Dollar Tree store — where Abbey has learned that a little money goes a long way — she bought toy baby dolls, building blocks, board games, Play-Doh, Mr. Potato Head and hundreds of other playthings.
Like she did last year, Abbey will help hand out the toys next week at the Sky Valley Food Bank. Through the Monroe agency’s Precious Packages program, families in need at Christmastime are given not only food but new donated toys, hats and gloves for children.
“It’s amazing. Last year it was hundreds and hundreds of toys that she got,” Carla Stewart, an administrator at Sky Valley Food Bank, said of Abbey. “She raised all the money. She didn’t even get birthday presents for herself. She’ll be here Monday helping to hand out toys.”
It’s just like last year, except Abbey’s indomitable spirit is shining even more brightly. Her gifts will keep coming for other kids despite Abbey’s own serious health issues.
Since she was an infant, Abbey has had ear problems — “normal kid stuff,” her mother said. But there was nothing normal about the symptoms Abbey began having this year. In addition to earaches, she experienced dizziness, nausea and memory loss.
Dr. Jasmine Low, a pediatrician at Providence Physician Group’s Monroe Clinic, sent Abbey to specialists at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She was diagnosed with a nonmalignant tumor behind one of her ears. Since September, she has undergone 11 surgical procedures and has had many CT scans.
“We were at Children’s on and off for four weeks,” Jodie Aney said. All the while, she and her husband, Adam, juggled care for Abbey’s little brother, 4-year-old Connor. They drove back and forth to the Seattle hospital almost daily from late September through October.
They feel blessed that what Abbey called a “bump in my head” is gone — for now. Because of her age, Jodie Aney said, Abbey is limited in the amount of X-ray radiation exposure she can have. Her mother said Wednesday that they don’t expect her to have more screenings until early spring.
The family is very grateful for an outpouring of help from friends, the staff at Cornerstone Academy in Monroe where Abbey goes to school, and from doctors.
“Our pediatrician has been amazing. She has helped us throughout this,” Jodie Aney said. “Her school has been amazing. Her principal put together meals for us. I don’t often cry at baked goods, but when they showed up at our front door, I started crying.
“Abbey has that giving spirit, but it’s hard to receive. It’s very humbling,” Jodie Aney said.
They have health insurance, but the ordeal is still a financial strain. Adam Aney works for Cadman, a gravel company in Monroe. The recession has bitten into the construction business and the family’s income. Jodie Aney doesn’t work outside the home.
To look at Abbey, you’d never guess at what she has endured. Her mother explained that surgeries to remove the tumor were performed through her ear, sparing her long brown hair.
“She’s still a little bit tired,” Jodie Aney said. By late October, Abbey was back in school. She missed much of her soccer season, but was able to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. “I was a witch,” Abbey said.
Jodie Aney remembers Abbey’s birthday, Sept. 8, when she asked friends to bring toys for the food bank. “Halfway through, she said ‘I don’t feel good.’ She walked away from her party, she didn’t even want cupcakes,” said Jodie Aney, recalling that her daughter said, “I’d give all the presents back if I could just feel better.”
With about $140 earned doing chores and from her own birthday money, Abbey bought 347 toys — she counted every last one.
When we met Wednesday, she was quiet. I told her I knew she didn’t feel well this fall, and asked if she ever considered skipping her effort to help other kids.
“I always planned to do it,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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