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  • Jillian Heilman

What Exactly is the Function of a Rubber Duck?


One of my favorite lines in the Harry Potter series was made by Arthur Weasley when he asked Harry, "...tell me, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?" I am not sure why that always made me smile, but it did. I guess I too wondered that very same question and I am a 'Muggle'!


Well, I think I finally found the answer to that age ole' question... but I need to tell you a little back story before I answer Arthur's curious inquiry.


It is birthday season in the Heilman household. It starts in April with Ben's b-day, then May brings my mom and I's celebrations, and we finish off this family stent of parties with Halle's birthday June 2nd. It has always been a running joke that we will put a birthday banner up in April and leave it through June, just to keep the party going. One time I tried to leave it through Neeley's birthday in November, but that didn't seem to go over well with the family. Anyway - I digress...back to the birthdays.

After Halle died in July 2015, I wondered how on earth I would face the birthday season without her here to celebrate with us. As 2016 approached, I feared I wouldn't find enough joy to launch

myself into the season with Ben's birthday rapidly approaching. Ben deserved to be celebrated, maybe even more so now that his sister was gone and if we have learned anything from Halle, it is the fact that life deserved to be lived. It was then, in 2016, that we decided we would use the Heilman Birthday Season to Kick Off our Annual Halle Grace Toy Drive that would celebrate Halle and the life she lived. It also made it easier on this momma to take out that birthday banner and hang it up knowing the next few months it would have a place in our home from April to June! Our 1st Toy Drive collected 316 donations. We are now approaching our 5th drive and I find myself getting excited for April to roll around so that we can begin collecting toys for children in the hospital...knowing these donations will bring so much joy and comfort to kids undergoing treatment for cancer or immunodeficiencies. That these donations may comfort a child in the ER or one who is being admitted for surgery or happens to be in the hospital for an illness or an accident. Regardless of the reason they enter the children's hospital or infusion clinic, we know there will be a little something that brings a smile to their face in Halle's memory.

This June 2nd will be a little extra special, as it would be Halle's 21st Birthday! So it will certainly be a day to celebrate. I have been blessed to see so many donations from friends and strangers near and far that are helping us celebrate Halle's memory and share her joy with those in need.


One such donation came in the mail on April 10th in the form of an Amazon gift card. It was a beautiful gift card arranged in a paper floral bouquet with a message that read: "In honor of Halle's 21st Birthday! Happy Heavenly Birthday!!!! I hope this brings a little joy to someone in the hospital!!! What a great thing to do to honor Halle. From the Ayan/Watson Family." I must admit, I broke down into tears upon opening this lovely gift. You see, April 10th of this year, the day the gift card came, was the 1-year anniversary of Avery Ayan's passing, and here was Avery's family sending a gift to honor Halle's memory and bring joy to other children in need.

So, what did I do with this donation you may ask? Well, I immediately logged into Amazon and purchased 50 decorative rubber ducks! You see, we chose to honor Avery's memory that day, by using that donation to purchase something she loved, and Avery loved rubber ducks! I mean LOVED them....so much so, that Neeley wants to one day get a tattoo of a little rubber duck in Avery's memory (yeah, we will see if her dad approves of her getting a tattoo....or should I say, more importantly, if Neeley's immunologist will approve)! Again, I digress! We thought the rubber ducks would be a great little gift for kids coming into the pediatric infusion clinics for treatment. Most of these kids are having to sit, hooked to an IV, for several hours at a time, often several days a week. Any time we can do something that will bring a smile to the face of a child on a difficult day - is a good day in my book!

Now - to better answer Mr. Weasley's question: "what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?" I must fast forward to yesterday. I was at the college graduation party of one of Halle's best friends from childhood, Lizzie. I was happy to go celebrate Lizzie's accomplishment, even if she is an FSU Alumni now (GO Gators!) At the party, I was speaking with Lizzie's sister, Nurse Kelley. Kelley happens to be a nurse at one of the pediatric infusion clinics that the Halle Grace Foundation delivers to. We were chatting about how the toy drive was going this year and I was confirming that she would be working on June 2nd, when I mentioned I had a special donation this year. I shared the story of Avery and why we would be sending over 50 decorative rubber ducks, as they were not individually wrapped but in a large amazon bag. Kelley seemed more excited than usual and proceeded to tell me "this is perfect!" It seems they have a young patient whose cancer is back, and he will require many more treatments of chemo and he ALWAYS asks the nurses if they have any Rubber Ducks!!!! Over the next three years, this one patient may collect each and every one of those ducky donations! To think, there is a child that comes in for treatment and ASKS if they have any rubber ducks! I guess Avery is not the only one who LOVES rubber ducks! That just made my day - we are able to honor both Halle and Avery's memory with one donation.


So, to answer the question: "what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?" That is simple Mr. Weasley, to bring JOY....to bring JOY!


Thank you all for the amazing toy drive donations this year. We will be continuing to collect them through May 30th and deliver them on June 2nd!

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