celebrated, though, is the selflessness of Katie, who had tough beginnings, but is now giving back to the world in any way she can.
Seven years ago, when Katie was only four, she was hospitalized during the holiday season due to complications stemming from the two brain surgeries she had earlier that year. Family and friends surrounded Katie on Christmas morning, showering her with toys, balloons and flowers.
Katie noticed, however, that another little girl with whom she shared her hospital room, wasn’t as lucky. She was alone on Christmas morning — no family nor friends, toys, balloons or flowers. That’s when four-year-old Katie decided to share some of her toys with the girl, one of them being a small stuffed elephant.
“We saw that little girl hug and keep that elephant close to her for as long as she was there,” explains Michael Simkhin, Katie’s father. “We’ll never forget how the little girl reacted when Katie gave her that little elephant.”
Katie’s generosity inspired the family, and they began collecting toys for other children who were in the same situation as the little girl Katie shared a hospital room with.
“To this day, we still remember the acts of generosity and kindness that helped get us through those very dark times; the countless “little” things that eased the burden just a little,” says Michael. “And since we were once there ourselves, we want very much to take those same acts of generosity and kindness, and pay them forward.”
The family’s toy drive has grown larger with each passing year, now involving Honeycuts in Oak Lawn and the Boy and Girl Scout Troops of St. Gerald’s. Because this past Christmas’ toy drive was such a success, the Simkhin family decided to make their own personal donation elsewhere. So when Santa brought the family a train table that they already had, they knew what to do.
“We saw how much joy he [Dylan] and his little sister got out of it,” explains Michael. “So we asked ourselves, ‘if we donate another table like this, where would it get the most use?’ CMOL was a no-brainer.”
Michael and his wife ran the idea by Katie, who was 100 percent on-board. After settling details, the train table was introduced to the Museum in early February.
We knew we had to celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony, not only to share the Simkhin family’s story, but the importance of giving as well.
“We want our children to grow up having a balance between their sense of self and their sense of others,” says Michael. “We think little things like this will help nurture their sense of others. If our children grow up to lead lives that somehow brighten their little corner of the world, then we think we have done our jobs.”