Ann Arbor police deliver gifts from holiday toy drive to Mott Children’s Hospital

Harper’s Holiday Toy Drive organized by former Mott patient

The Mathis family (left) poses with members of the AAPD with toys collected through Harper's Holiday Toy Drive on Dec. 13, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – It was a festive and heartwarming scene on Monday afternoon when officers with the Ann Arbor Police Department delivered toys to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital donated by a child of one of their very own.

Officer Shellie Mathis’ daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor when she was 10 years old in 2020. After a long battle and several hospital stays, Harper decided to hold a holiday toy drive to celebrate the end of her treatments at Mott.

Harper Mathis poses with toys from her holiday toy drive for patients at Mott Children's Hospital on Dec. 13, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

“I decided to do it because I felt like I needed to give back to the hospital for helping me with the amazing nurses and the amazing doctors,” said Harper. “I felt bad for the kids that don’t get to be home in comfort with their families. Because of COVID, you can’t have that many people come up to your room.

“I was here for Thanksgiving last year, and they gave me so many gifts, even for just Thanksgiving and it was so sweet of them to do.”

Ann Arbor Police Department officers help unload gifts for Harper's Holiday Toy Drive at Mott Chidren's Hospital on Dec. 13, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

Police officers, some wearing Santa hats and Christmas light headbands, unloaded boxes of toys from a number of decorated police vehicles and a large trailer.

Luanne Thomas Ewald, COO of Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, said Harper’s Toy Drive will bring much-needed joy to children spending the holidays in the hospital.

“When we see our kids and our former patients who are doing well and are home and are back in their communities that want to give back to the kids that will unfortunately be here over the holidays, it’s the best,” said Ewald. “It warms our hearts. These families and these kids rally their communities.”

COO of Mott Chidren's Hospital Luanne Thomas Ewald and Harper Mathis pose with toys donated through Harper's Holiday Toy Drive on Dec. 13, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

Ewald said Harper’s Holiday Toy Drive came at the perfect time since the hospital’s toy supply has taken a hit during the pandemic and restrictions on multiple patients using the hospital’s activity rooms have impacted regular play schedules.

“With COVID, our toy supply has been greatly depleted,” she said. “Days like today make us so happy when we see all these police cars filled with toys. We just know we’re going to have a very special holiday here at the hospital.”

Harper Mathis (middle) poses with two of her former nurses at Mott Children's Hospital on Dec. 13, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

This isn’t the first time Harper has organized an event to give back. In June, she and Shellie helped raised funds selling lemonade on Main Street for childhood cancer research with the help of fellow AAPD officer Kabe Jenkins whose young daughter Charlotte also battled cancer.

Several AAPD vehicles were decorated for the event. (Meredith Bruckner)

Harper said she is thankful for the help of the AAPD in her efforts to bring pediatric patients brand-new toys for the holidays.

“It feels so great because it’s really nice to know that everybody wanted to do this and that they all could come together and do this,” said Harper. “It just is amazing and we have an amazing department down here.”