WES and AIM toy drive sign

Aviation Institute of Maintenance participates in the 10th Annual Wes’ Wish Toy Drive to collect toys and other items to distribute to children battling cancer and their families

Written By Jul DeGeus

Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) Norfolk has partnered with The Wes Strong Foundation to raise toys and other donations for children fighting cancer and their families. The campus has volunteered to be a drop-off location for the items and is located at 2329 E. Little Creek Road in Norfolk. The community is encouraged to bring gifts or send packages to the campus from now until December 11th. Guest should practice social distancing and wear a mask when dropping off donation items to the campus.

Wes’ Wish Toy Drive began in 2011 when 5-year-old Wes Pak, who had just been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, wanted to give all of his toys away to the other children at his clinic fighting sickness alongside him. Thus, the toy drive was born. What started with just 5 little red wagons filled with toys has now grown to be able to help many families across Hampton Roads. Wes continued to help collect, sort, and deliver toys to CHKD up until he passed away in 2018. Today, the foundation carries on the toy drive in his memory.

“Like most nonprofits, 2020 has been a tough year for the Wes Strong Foundation,” states Campus Executive Director Ashley Oden. “COVID-19 has impacted the foundation’s ability to get donations from public schools and also led to not being able to host the giveaway event on site at CHKD. Pediatric cancer doesn’t stop impacting families during a pandemic so despite these obstacles, AIM is committed to making this year’s Toy Drive the best year yet!”

“I didn’t know Wes personally, but Wes’ mom, Krista Pak, shared that Wes flew over 140 times to receive treatment all over the country. He was a huge fan of airplanes and helicopters so hosting this year’s event at AIM just makes sense. Anyone wishing to get involved is invited to do a no contact drop off at the main entrance of the campus, order toys online and have them shipped directly to the school, or contact me at 757-363-2121 to help volunteer during this year’s weekend of events. This event provides gifts for the patient, their siblings, and their parents, so items for the whole family are welcomed and very much appreciated.”

While the drive has lifted a huge burden for many families fighting childhood cancer in the local area, two age groups are always lacking in support: the teens and babies. Hunter’s Smile Sponsors can donate $150 to provide gifts for teenagers and infants with no shopping required. This sponsor package is in memory of Hunter Lee. For individuals looking to sponsor a family, the Gavin’s Smile Box collects a $500 donation to shop in support of a local pediatric family. This box was created in memory of Gavin Rhodes. All sponsors will be displayed the day of the Toy Drive Expo as well on foundation material passed out to each family.

AIM Norfolk’s sister school, Tidewater Tech, is also a donation site for Wes’ Wish Toy Drive. The campus is located at 4535 East Princess Anne Rd. in Norfolk and can be reached at (757) 858-8324.

For more information or questions, please call AIM Norfolk at (757) 363-2121.

About Aviation Institute of Maintenance

Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) is a network of aviation maintenance schools with campuses coast-to-coast in the United States and headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va. AIM students are trained to meet the increasing global demand of commercial, cargo, corporate and private aviation employers. AIM graduates are eligible to take the Federal Aviation Administration exams necessary to obtain their mechanic’s certificate with ratings in both Airframe and Powerplant. AIM’s campuses are in the following major metro areas: Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, San Francisco Bay, Orlando, and Norfolk. Learn more at www.AviationMaintenance.edu or like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AIM.edu.

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