Eight-year-old Croton-on-Hudson resident Stella Fosgate has one—very impressive—goal for her life: bring joy to the children in our local hospitals.
A few years ago, Stella overcame her own health battle. Her parents, Jamie Fosgate and Jill Frankenfield, noticed she was starting to lose mobility in her legs when she was four years old. Her progress in gymnastics class slowly started to revert, but a swift decline soon set in. Stella’s parents visited every children’s hospital in the Northeast to figure out what was going on. As Jamie Fosgate puts it, “It was nine months of hell. Her walking became severely limited.”
Although left with lots of questions and very few answers, Stella never lost her smile. Each of these children’s hospitals had their own way of making their patients feel a little more comfortable, but one method in particular stood out to Stella.
A few hospitals had toy donations in boxes for the children to pick from during more difficult days. “Those toys were great for her morale,” says Stella’s father. “She also noticed how it made the other kids feel.”
After nine months of battling her mobility, Stella regained her strength and started to walk again in what her parents can only describe as “a miracle,” but her health battle wasn’t over just yet—and she wouldn’t forget the children she saw along the way.
As she rebuilt her strength, Stella developed a severe case of tonsilitis and had to celebrate Christmas at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. To Stella and her family’s surprise, someone donated boxes upon boxes of toys for each child to have on Christmas morning — “and one of those boxes came to me!” Stella exclaims.
In a true Christmas miracle, Stella was released later that day and has been running and tumbling without issue since. But she hasn’t forgotten what that Christmas morning meant to her, or to the other children.
“She kept saying she wanted to help the kids still in the hospital,” Jamie says. Stella had the great idea to start her own form of charity: “I want to empty my piggybank and help the kids,” she says. Every dollar that has come into Stella’s hands in the past three years has gone into that piggybank and back to the hospital.
The first year that she started this drive, donations came from just her piggybank and her immediate family, providing $300 in toys for Maria Fareri. The next year, their extended family and local community asked to help out, and donations went crazy. In 2021, Stella was able to donate $17,000 in toys to Maria Fareri, stocking them up for an entire year’s worth of gifts.
But Stella wants to go even bigger. This year, she’s asking, “What else can we do?” Stella’s school, St. Augustine in Ossining, helps with toys and donations each year. This year, though, St. Augustine School is working with Stella to increase the donations with a fun community event: a color run!
Stella’s classmates and community members will be doused head to toe in colorful powder as they race to raise money for Stella’s toy drive. The event will take place in October at St. Augustine School and will be open to the public. Visit St. Augustine’s Events page on their website in the coming weeks for more details and registration information.
Stella looks forward to a fun, colorful event that will result in even more toys for Maria Fareri. She even hopes that she can someday extend her toy drive to other children’s hospitals in the Northeast because she remembers how happy those toys made her.
“So many kids are going through tough stuff,” says Jamie. Stella quickly chimes in with: “I just want to raise the money and make all the kids smile again!”
- staugny.org (St. Augustine)
Stephanie Conte is a resident of Peekskill.