If anyone in the Sky Valley was born to give, it is inarguably Abbey Aney. Since she was four years old, the familiar Monroe figure has run ever-larger Christmas toy drives for less fortunate kids, with a fervor startling in one her age.
Now the community is rallying to give back.
Unbeknownst to many, four years ago, at the age of 7, Abbey got very sick.
Her family is sensitive talking about the exact nature of her illness in order to preserve some of her privacy, but it has progressed to a point at which the young girl requires long periods of hospitalization.
This summer, she has been admitted to an intensive pain management program that will last six weeks, and community members are working to support the Aney family through the difficult time.
Aney first shared her story of commitment to toy drives with the Monroe Monitor last year, when she was 10.
Shy as she is, she dreaded the public attention, but she knew it would help her get toys for kids, so she mustered her courage and did an interview.
At the age of 4, for reasons she can’t even remember now, she announced to her Mom at Christmas that instead of presents, she wanted money to spend to give presents to kids who otherwise might not get anything.
The next year, she wanted to to it again. Only this time, she wanted to see where the presents she bought actually wound up. So her Mom, Jodie Aney, took her to the Sky Valley Food Bank toy giveaway.
“My mom made me go through the line with her and see what it’s like,” said Abbey. “When I was a little bit older, they asked me to help hand the toys out. It just makes my heart feel good, and I know the toys are going to the kids.”
As her efforts grew, she began putting collection boxes around town as early as September. But she collected money and toys all year.
In December of 2009, Julie Morris, then the director of the Sky Valley Food Bank, sent a letter to the Monroe Monitor, urging attention to the remarkable child.
“Abbey Aney saved all her allowance from 2009, saved the money from her lemonade stand, and asked her friends to bring Dollar Store gift certificates or money to her birthday party,” write Morris.
“She saved every cent she made which came out to enough dollars to purchase four huge boxes of toys. She delivered them to the Sky Valley Food Bank’s Precious Packages Toy Program. She asked the Dollar Store in Monroe if they would match her total and they agreed! So Abbey went shopping!”
Abbey donated $150 worth of toys that year.
“I want to make sure every child can have a toy for Christmas, especially the kids’ [families] who don’t
have enough money. I feel good to give, it feels right,” Abbey said at the time.
“She helped unload, put away and hand out some of her gifts,” Morris went on. “Her mother said it was all her own idea; she has a big heart and gives away her own things (sweaters, coats, gloves) all year if she sees another child in need!”
Abbey went on to set up in subsequent years to set up a little holiday toy-collection booth outside Haight Carpet on Lewis Street, where and helpful family and friends accepted gifts for kids.
Her efforts caught the attention of local media, and stories of her toy drives appeared in the Everett Herald and the Monroe Monitor.
She also was awarded a Kohl’s Cares Scholarship in July of 2012.
As more people learned about her, Abbey started getting a lot more toys.
In 2011 she gave more than 600 toys away. In 2012, at the age of 9, she donated $4,100 worth of toys to the Sky Valley Food Bank’s annual toy drive, assisting 654 families to provide more than 1,100 holiday gifts to their children during difficult times.
That year, the new director of the Sky Valley Food Bank, Neil Watkins, wrote another letter to the Monroe Monitor, that ran in December.
“She is a lovely and lively young girl with a sparkle in her eye and a big and generous heart,” said Watkins. “Each year, despite ongoing health problems, Abbey collects and saves money, even foregoing birthday gifts, for a big shopping spree at the Dollar Store, and baskets and baskets of dolls and bears, building blocks and board games purchased by Abbey make their way from the Dollar Store to the Toy Room at the Sky Valley Food Bank to become a part of our annual Hope for the Holidays program.”
Abbey’s health crisis first emerged when she was just 7. That year, the little girl had to have 11 surgeries. And each time she got a shot, her family promised her a toy for her toy drive.
There have been ups and downs since then, and Jodie and Adam, Abbey’s mom and dad, have tried to protect Abbey from the sort of attention the little girl finds it difficult to handle. They especially wanted to protect her from too much discussion of her health issues.
But now that her condition has grown more serious, others in the community have grown more concerned about the Aney family, as medical expenses not covered by insurance continue to pile up.
So friends and supporters, determined to give back to the family of the girl who has given so much, with the family’s consent started a Giveforward page for her called “All Together for Abbey!”
At giveforward.com, supporters can make financial gifts until the end of the campaign. The family’s supporters have set a goal of raising $5,000 in the next two and a half months. The family will get to keep whatever is donated even if that goal isn’t met, and it is perfectly possible to collect a great deal more than the goal if support exceeds the fundraisers’ hopes.
“Abbey has been inspirational throughout this. It’s incredible what she and other children just like her can endure. It is a definite perspective check for all of us. We all need to remember to cherish our lives and each other,” wrote an author on the page. “We all know that medical bills add up quickly. Let’s rally behind Abbey and her family and take part of the financial burden off of them. Let’s show this little girl that she is brave and powerful and that we believe in her amazing spirit.”
Even as she struggles with her health issues, Abbey continues to think of other kids, said Jodie last week.
Abbey is hoping to find a way to meet Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is a frequent visitor to Children’s Hospital. Not because she’s a star-struck sports fan. Because she hopes she can talk him into donating some signed footballs for her toy drive.
Jodie acknowledged last week that the financial strain is real for the family, although she did say that accepting help is hard.
But the expense of the experimental treatment Abbey is currently receiving is nothing compared to the priceless relief it offers the child, she said.
“We are in several clinical trials in Children’s,” she said. “It’s a very intense pain rehabilitation study. She has massive damage to her nerves around her kidney and she’s in chronic pain, there’s nothing you can do… We are down there for a six-week program. Its expensive, it is what it is, but every day she’s there she can smile.”
There will be a pancake breakfast to support the Aney family Friday, July 4 at 8 a.m. at Lake Tye.
Another way to assist in the effort to support the Aney family is to donate through https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/bbw4/all-together-for-abbey.