Miami Cancer Survivor Organizes Holiday Toy Drive for Sylvester Cancer Center

When Andres Rodriguez, a healthy 22-year-old college student, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in August of this year, it came as quite a shock - especially since he was in the midst of applying to medical school when he found out.

Since then, Rodriguez has undergone surgery and is fortunately in remission. During his time at the Sylvester Comprehensive Center of the University of Miami Health, Rodriguez spent a lot of time with other children and young adults like himself at the pediatric oncology center.

"I developed a strong and personal connection with the children of Alex's Place," says Rodriguez. Now it's his chance to give back and make their days that much brighter this holiday season with Andy's Christmas Toy Drive.

For many, the holiday season can be the most difficult time of the year. And while we might want to be extra cheery, oftentimes more stress ensues, especially if you are dealing with a child or family member who is sick. That is why Rodriguez wanted to launch this toy drive, in part to ensure that current patients of Alex's Place and their families can spend their Christmastime focusing on a more positive message, he says -- the message being that they are not alone and they have an army of supporters.

"Although I would give up anything to find a cure for cancer today, I realize that our world is not yet there technologically; however, the next best thing we can do is give support to these families and bring smiles to the children's faces," says Rodriguez.

During the Christmastime, Rodriguez says he believes it's important to give back to the community in any way possible. "I think it is important for people to view Christmas as the season of giving, and it can be revitalizing when you give back in a way that's personal. Nothing made me happier than receiving a toy as a child and I am confident that delivering toys to these patients will bring them smiles and hope."

The best part about the toy drive, says Rodriguez, is being able to show these children that the support they are receiving extends past their families and close friends.

Andy's Toy Drive is not Rodriguez's first time collecting for cancer or cancer research. Just this past month, he and his best friend, Jose Perez, started a Movember team. The month of November is dedicated to raising awareness on men's health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer, the latter of which, Rodriguez informs us, targets young men ages 15-30. At the end of the fundraising period, "Collectively, our team of 45 'Mo' bros' and 'Mo' sistas' raised $4,524."

If you would like to donate a toy, Rodriguez is asking for unwrapped toys for children ages 3-15 - nothing profane, violent, or inappropriate, of course. The toys will go to benefit the roughly 500 pediatric cancer patients at Alex's Place. If you are unable to donate a toy, but would still like to donate, Rodriguez has set up a GoFundMe campaign and will purchase toys with the monetary donations on your behalf.

"We have set our sights on making this holiday season the best Christmas the children at Alex's Place have ever experienced," says Rodriguez. "These families are dealing with hardships that no family deserves to endure and it is up to us to uplift their spirits."

Giving is back in season.

You can contact Rodriguez via his GoFundMe page and he will coordinate a toy pick up or drop off. Rodriguez and his family plan to deliver the presents before Christmas day and are hoping to have them all collected by December 20.

Send your story tips to Cultist at cultist@miaminewtimes.com.

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