Madison “Maddy” Schicker had an idea this Christmas season. The 7-year-old second-grader at Komarek School decided that she would start a toy drive to collect toys for patients at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.
“I made fliers and then we copied them, and I passed them out to my school,” Maddy said. “We set out boxes at both offices.”
Students, parents and staff at Komarek collected more than 100 toys.
But that wasn’t the end of it, unbeknownst to Maddy.
Riverside-Brookfield High School cheerleader Nicole DeLeonardis found out about Maddy’s toy drive from her mother. DeLeonardis, a junior at RB and a Komarek graduate, is a friend of Maddy’s.
“My little brother played on the same baseball team as her, and I just went to a few games and that’s where I met Maddy,” DeLeonardis said.
Maddy and Nicole bonded over cheerleading. This year Maddy was a cheerleader for the Westchester Raiders football team. She idolizes Nicole.
When DeLeonardis found out about Maddy’s toy drive, she decided that RB’s cheerleaders should get involved. She figured that if each RB cheerleader would buy just one toy they could collect at least 40 more toys.
“[Komarek’s] a small school so it’s hard to collect a lot of something,” DeLeonardis said. “I just wanted to be able to get more, because who doesn’t want to help more. It was our turn to give back, because the community gives us so much that I felt like we could help someone and it’s such a good cause.”
When DeLeonardis told RBHS cheerleading coach Chris Borzym of her idea, Borzym suggested getting other athletic teams involved. He contacted Athletic Director Art Ostrow and the word went out about the toy drive.
“Having spent a few months in the hospital when I was in kindergarten, I was touched,” Borzym said.
One cheerleader, senior Rachel Konopacz, bought $20 worth of toys herself.
All in all, RBHS students and staff contributed 363 gifts for Maddy’s toy drive.
“We did this whole toy drive in, like, 10 days,” DeLeonardis said.
DeLeonardis and the rest of the cheerleaders came up with a plan to surprise Maddy with the toys. Maddy’s parents, Michael and Sally, took Maddy to the RBHS basketball game Friday night under the pretext of watching Nicole cheer.
Then, between the sophomore and varsity games, Borzym took the microphone. He called Maddy down to the court and told the crowd about Maddy’s toy drive as 39 cheerleaders marched out on to the court each holding a bag of toys as Nicole stood next to Maddy.
“After all the cheerleaders came out her jaw just dropped, and then she looked at me and said ‘How am I supposed to get all these home?'” DeLeonardis said.
Maddy was stunned.
“She was speechless,” said her mom, Sally Schicker. “She was in disbelief. She’s so happy she’s crying.”
The RBHS cheerleaders also gave Maddy a small cheerleading uniform and a competition hair bow.
During the varsity game JV cheerleaders went through the crowd and collected $263 dollars to buy even more toys. On Sunday, Maddy, her mom and DeLeonardis went to Target and used that money to buy 41 more toys.
On Dec. 22 the RB cheerleaders will accompany Maddy to Children’s Memorial Hospital where they will deliver the toys to sick children.
Maddy had some health problems during her first two years of life and underwent cleft palate surgery at Children’s Memorial Hospital when she was 2 years old. She has no memory of being a patient at Children’s Memorial and just wanted to try and make some sick children happy this year at Christmas.
“She really inspired all of use to give back because we would have never thought of this without her,” DeLeonardis said.