Deborah Eskridge knows firsthand how illnesses can impact day-to-day life.
Diagnosed with lupus in 2016 at the age of 19, she spent much of her time adjusting to her “new normal” rather than attending her second year of college as planned.
Recognizing that many children and young adults impacted by illnesses may not be able to do the same things as others their age, especially during the holiday season, Eskridge began a toy drive called Deborah’s Toy Chest in late 2016.
“With the support of my neighbors, friends, and family, I was able to donate 66 toys to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,” said Eskridge.
From there, her desire to help others grew and Deborah’s Dream Inc. was established in 2020.
“The mission of Deborah’s Dream Inc. is to provide a joyful experience for kids and young adults in the midst of battling their chronic/life-threatening illness or injury and give support and encouragement to the families of any child that is hospitalized,” said Eskridge.
Through her nonprofit and with the help of her “dream team,” including family, friends, and volunteers, she hosts multiple fundraisers and drives throughout the year.
To date, she has been able to donate a total of 1,591 toys and $400 to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the impact of Deborah’s Toy Chest is expected to increase as she gets ready for the 2023 holiday season.
In addition to Deborah’s Toy Chest, Eskridge also arranges for craft nights as well as meals to be provided to families at the Ronald McDonald Houses in Atlanta for families that are in transition either into or out of local hospitals.
She also collects supplies and puts together Parent Packs for parents that find themselves unexpectedly at the hospital with their child after a diagnosis and unprepared for a visit or short stay. The packs have items such as toiletries, a notebook, a card with encouragement, and a small toy or stuffed animal for the child as well.
In everything she does through Deborah’s Dream Inc., Eskridge understands that no meal, toy, or comfort item can fix a diagnosis, but it can completely change the perspective of a recipient and their families.
“I am aware that no act of love will change a diagnosis, but every act of love will affect the journey through it,” said Eskridge.
Eskridge is looking to expand Deborah’s Dream Inc. by offering more volunteer opportunities and is hopeful for more community support to allow her to continue to share her dream with others.
By: Erin Lopez