The Hector Robles family of Douglas celebrated “Christmas in July” on Wednesday, July 31 when they dropped off 302 toys to patients at Tucson Medical Center.
For the past eight years Rachel and Rene Robles, daughter and son of Hector and Lupita Robles, have been taking new toys to patients ages 5-19-years of age at TMC. To date, 3,302 toys have been delivered thanks to the help of a very generous community along with the unwavering support of family and friends.
All throughout the month of June and July the Robles’ collected money and received donations for patients at Tucson Medical Center who admit their toy closet, which is called Andreas Closet, gets a little bare this time of year.
“With what we took up we were able to fill that closet back up,” Lupita said. “We’re hoping it will get them through December.”
Lupita said what many residents aren’t aware of is that some of the patients the toys will be distributed to, may be from Douglas or have family ties to the community somehow.
In July 2011 while celebrating his fifth birthday with his cousin Debanny, Rene suffered a seizure. The young Robles was immediately transported to TMC. Once there the nurses and doctors administered numerous tests. The results showed that the seizure was due to an abnormal blood vessel on the right side of Rene’s brain. By the third day, Rene awoke wanting to continue his birthday celebration. Unfortunately, this could not happen since he was to stay at TMC for the next seven days. By the sixth day, the staff at TMC made his stay a little extra special when the staff there provided Robles and his cousin a belated birthday celebration, giving both of them presents and also singing “Happy Birthday” to them.
This sparked the “Christmas in July” idea for both Rene and his older sister Rachel where they would deliver toys to the pediatric patients at TMC every July 31, the day of Rene’s birthday.
While Rene’s seizure was eight years ago, Lupita says it still feels like yesterday.
“He’s been seizure free,” Lupita said. “He still has his abnormal blood vessel on the right side of the brain. We did see a neurologist this year who said no sports again this year that involve any head contact at all. He can’t wrestle, play football or soccer. He knows he can get involved in other ways.”
Rene, a seventh grader at Paul Huber Middle School, has no recollection of what he went through eight years ago.
“He remembers waking up and asking where’s my party,” Lupita jokes.
Rene’s older sister Rachael graduated last year from Douglas High School and is attending college this semester.
“She wanted to be with us when we dropped off the toys at TMC,” Lupita said. “School pretty much prevented that. She did donate some items that we were able to sell in our yard sale.”
This year’s drop off landed the Robles’ on the Channel 4 and 9 news that same evening where they shared their story. Staff at TMC even had a Happy 13th Birthday sign waiting for Rene when he arrived.
Lupita remarked, when she went back to school the day after the event, many of her co-workers remarked they had seen her story on television and stated, “It’s amazing what you do. A lot of people really don’t know what we are trying to do, but once they saw the publicity we got on tv they are starting to understand.”
Rene says he is happy to do this project every year and plans on continuing it as long as possible.
“Every year we go back it’s a different feeling,’ he said. “When we showed up this year the staff at TMC was surprised that we showed up with as many toys as we did. It’s a special feeling knowing we are helping out.”
Lupita said all the toys donated were purchased at various stores in Douglas and the money they collected supported our local businesses.
“We shopped at every store here that sells toys,” Lupita said.
Both Lupita and Rene want to extend a huge thanks to the community as well as their family and friends.
“We’re so proud when we tell people we’re from Douglas,” she said.
Walmart provided a $100 gift card to the family which they used to purchase toys. Dairy Queen held a toy drive where a free mini blizzard was given to whoever brought in a new, unwrapped toy.
“We did that for about three weeks and collected a big box and a half,” Lupita said. “It was kind of slow at first then, but then picked up once we put it out on Facebook.”
“We really appreciate everyone helping out and all the donations,” Rene added.