Family collects thousands of toys in memory of 1-year-old son

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- It's in his name: Joey Angiolino is a "Little Angel."

As an infant, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder known as Hurler's Syndrome. After a long battle, he passed away at just 15 months old.

"Joey is an inspiration to a lot of people," said his father, James Angiolino. "We feel very strongly about spreading his message of hope and faith and love to other children across the country."

James and his wife, Nicole, started "Joey's Little Angels" as a small toy drive at their house. Ten years later, they have collected over 25,000 toys.

"We feel that's 25,000 smiles that Joey's brought to, you know, a kid that's enduring some very difficult, serious things," James said.

The couple, both teachers from Hamilton Township, New Jersey, remember the graciousness with which they were treated when Joey was in the hospital. They did not want that chain of kindness to stop there.

So, in a year where a global pandemic has limited large events, the Angiolinos converted their holiday tradition into a drive-through event at Notre Dame High School. With a trusty group of volunteers, they counted and collected more than 4,000 toys.

"We, as a family, raised 318 toys," said Matt Hunter, whose son, Mason, had developed a hearing impairment. "We became part of Joey's Little Angels family this year with the donation that they gave to us for medical implants for down the road for Mason," he said.

The Hunter family enjoyed socializing with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Yukon Cornelius and his reindeer, all of which were in attendance. Even with special appearances from movie stars like Elsa, Anna, Spiderman and Captain America, James Angiolino says the true superheroes are the volunteers.

"The best thing for us is just seeing the community and our friends volunteer their time to help make a difference in Joey's name," he said.

To learn more about Joey's Little Angels, visit their website.

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