2012 Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award Honoree
John Theissen Children's Foundation
At age 17, John Theissen was a promising athlete and high school senior when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During his hospital stay, one single event impacted him and subsequently shaped his lifelong goals.
John recalls the life-changing event: "I met a 7-year-old girl named Tasha. She had little family support and was there receiving treatments for her own illness. She befriended my family. When none of her family showed up for the hospital's holiday party, my mother accompanied her. I was still too weak to attend. Tasha told Santa she didn't want anything for herself, just a teddy bear for her friend upstairs who was too sick to attend. I felt fortunate to be that friend."
Tasha's positive attitude and generous spirit inspired John to help sick children like her.
In 1992, John founded the John Theissen Children's Foundation (JTCF). His first toy drive that year netted over 800 new toys for children in hospitals. To date, over 750,000 toys have been donated to hospitals, child-care facilities, shelters, individual families, rehabilitation centers and anywhere there are sick children. Hospitals all over are equipped with video game systems, fully loaded playrooms, fun furnishings and other supplies donated by JTCF. The organization has expanded to grant wishes to sick children and provides underprivileged children with gifts during the holidays as well as clothing and school supplies each September.
JTCF opened its Fun Center in 2008. Children, who cannot be in the general public because of their illness, can use the center, at no cost, to celebrate their birthdays or other special events. The center helps the children and their families focus on something other than their illnesses or their financial situation, and is a place where they can feel like regular kids.
John lives in Wantagh, N.Y., with his wife, Heather, and their children John and Hannah.
Although managing his medical condition is frequently challenging, John says, "I feel that if given the opportunity, and considering all of my blessings, I wouldn't change a thing."