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Local Truck Driver Donates Thousands of Toys to KDMC Emergency Department

Gillispie.OakleyWe’ve heard it a dozen times…it’s the small things in life that make such a big difference. Just ask truck driver Oakley Gillispie.

It started with the need for some kind of toy to calm one frightened child in the King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) Emergency Department (ED) nearly three years ago. Today, after many visits, Oakley’s tally of new stuffed animals delivered to KDMC has topped the 2,500 mark.

The Greenup, Ky., resident, while visiting the Emergency Department with his own son, overheard a nurse wishing she had something to give a frightened and crying child. Gillispie knew he could make a difference.

Since truck drivers are required by law to take breaks from driving, the natural thing to do is hang out at truck stops as he travels the states of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Gillispie admits that he is good at playing “the claw machine,” a game where the challenge is to snatch stuffed animals from a pile during an allotted time. The first time Gillispie made a surprise visit to KDMC, he donated 98 stuffed toys.

There’s something inspiring about seeing this very large truck (a Heartland 18-wheeler) pull up near the Emergency Department entrance and the driver climb down with a bag of stuffed animals for the children inside.

“The staff gets so excited when Oakley’s truck pulls up,” said Rita Burgess, a patient representative. “A stuffed animal might seem so small, but it’s a big deal to these children,” she said.

Truck drivers often take a bad rap, Gillispie said. “But there are thousands of drivers that take part in charitable projects,” he said.

“Oakley” is a hero, the ED staff members point out. Or, maybe he’s KDMC’s own Santa Claus. Regardless of what you call him, that soft spot in his heart has brought a lot of smiles to hospitalized children.

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