PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "This toy drive is just so important because, you know, we were one of those families who received toys and we still do," said Jami Alberalla.
Jami and her husband, Nicholas, participated in the 5th annual DePaul Brothers Toy Drive today. But despite volunteering for several years, they weren't always on the giving end of the massive holiday donation.
"You know, we did spend holidays in hospital," said Jami. "It's so sad and families that are within the hospital right now, you know, their prayer every single day is to get home."
Jami and Nicholas' daughter, Tenlee, was born with heart failure. Then, a months-long journey began at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"We had to list her for a heart transplant," said Nicholas. "So, we know what it's like when Child Life comes through and brings toys to try and normalize a hospital stay."
Today, the couple helped to donate hundreds of toys to various Philadelphia-area organizations. Police escorted dozens of trucks on a tour to drop off toys at Shriners Hospital for Children, the American Red Cross, Families Forward, and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
"The holiday season, for my department, you know, a lot of our sole focus is to be able to make the holidays happen," said Hillary Israel, Manager of Child Life Services at St. Christopher's. "We're so grateful that we have so many community partners."
One of those partners are the DePaul brothers, who run a five-generation-old construction company. Five years ago, Anthony DePaul decided his holiday savings were better spent on those in need.
"We decided, rather than buy each other gifts for Christmas, let's take that money and buy kids gifts and then maybe we'll bring them down to the hospitals," he said.
Now, the DePaul family no longer exchanges gifts for the holidays. Instead, they organize a massive event where members of the community can stuff several dump trucks full of toys.
"All these people, they bring them, we buy some, people ship them, drop them off, it comes from everywhere" said Gene DePaul. "You know, we don't get a chance to meet everybody and thank them, but thank you."
The Alberallas are especially grateful for the DePaul brothers and the area hospitals that help children like Tenlee get their heart transplants.
"Our daughter will be three in February and she's doing extremely well," said Nicholas.
"Every day is a miracle. So, we're just so thankful," she said.