He was only eight months old when he died.
South Surrey parents Ashley Irvine and Sean Rowdon were devastated when they lost their son, Blake, in April of 2020.
Born with a congenital heart defect, Blake was to have a three-part surgery, with one successfully completed.
“He was going in for part two – it was kind of seen as a routine surgery… he had post-operative complications and he passed away,” Irvine said.
But rather than dwell on their grief, his parents decided to instead, collect toys for other youngsters at BC Children’s hospital in time for them to enjoy during the holiday season.
They had already started a box of things to take to the hospital that year, Irvine recalled, and so the following year, “I thought maybe I would collect toys again.”
“In a moms group (on social media), I mentioned donating toys to see if anyone was interested, and there was an outpouring of support and that was the first (official) toy drive,” she said.
She originally thought, instead of bringing one box to give back to BC Childrens Hospital, maybe she and Sean could get three boxes together.
It was a lot more than three boxes.
“(South Surrey business) Floor Envy reached out to me and offered to be a drop-off site,” Irvine said, and offered the use of their massive van, which they filled with donated toys.
“The next year came, and we decided to do it again.”
With more than 800 gifts donated last year, the toy drive just keeps growing.
“It really is amazing. It really is meaningful and it’s a huge support for us, especially during our grieving… we miss Blake terribly and even though he’s not here physically, he is still our son,” said Irvine.
“We do the toy drive because we want to honour him and we want to keep his memory alive. Blake loved toys, and BC Children’s Hospital is very near and dear to our hearts.”
The toys go directly to the kids who are at BC Childrens Hospital, she noted.
“It’s been therapeutic for us in a way… rewarding as well.”
Lacey and Coriey Kelly, the husband-and-wife team who own Floor Envy, knew they had the space – their business as well as a warehouse – and a truck to offer to help, so they did.
“I saw the post on a moms Faceboook group… and I saw she was going to drive around and pick up all the donations herself,” Lacey said, and offered their space and vehicle.
“There was over 800 gifts last year and we filled the truck.”
Their own child had to stay in BC Childrens Hospital for awhile, Lacey said, and while they’re better now, they still remember the Lego kit a hospital worker brought when they were having a tough day, and “it just made everything better.”
“Just being able to give back – knowing there’s kids at childrens that are going through some tough times, and how a little stuffie or Lego kit can turn a day around – we love to just be a part of it,” Kelly said. “It’s an honour to help.”
Toys must be new and unwrapped, she noted.
Stuffies and Lego kits are always popular, Kelly said, as well as gift cards for older kids. Also, squishmallows.
“Everybody loves a squishmallow!”
Irvine and Rowdon have since had another child, a boy named Lucas, with his middle name – Blake – honouring his brother.
“We’re very thankful and grateful,” Irvine said.
She knows that many people are struggling financially, and said she hopes people donate only if they’re able.
“It’s really hard when you’re a parent and you’re not getting an income because you’re with your child in the hospital all the time,” Irvine said.
“There’s not very many supports for parents with children in the hospital… it can be scary not knowing where you’re going to get Christmas from for your child.”
People can drop off gifts at Floor Envy, 11 - 15531 24 Ave., Surrey during business hours until Dec. 1. They can also email Irvine at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Irvine.
“People have always been so generous and we’re so grateful. It’s a great cause,” she said.
“Anything and everything is appreciated.”
After all donated gifts are collected, they’re driven to BC Childrens Hospital in the Floor Envy truck.