In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

November 29, 2016

Sisters’ Heart Transplants Inspire Family to Organize Holiday Toy Drive

By In the Loop

Having firsthand experience with long-term hospitalizations has inspired the Rippy family to give back each Christmas.

Like many parents of young children, Linsey Rippy finds her thoughts turn to gift lists this time of year. There’s a list for each of her daughters. But there’s also a gift list for children she likely will never meet — boys and girls who will spend the holidays at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center on Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. For the past six years, the Rippy family has organized a holiday toy drive to help stock the toy closets in the hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester.

Both are places the Rippy family knows well. Linsey’s daughters, 10-year-old Madi and 7-year-old Sydney, were diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy as toddlers, and each had a heart transplant at Mayo Clinic at age 3. Over the years, that has meant lots (and lots) of long days and nights in the hospital.

Having firsthand experience with long-term hospitalizations has inspired the Rippy family to give back each Christmas.“It’s tough for kids to be stuck in a hospital bed,” Linsey says. Perhaps especially so during the holidays. So they’ve chosen to schedule their toy drive at Christmastime, with the hope that the gifts they collect may give a much-needed boost to hospitalized children. “I’ve seen how a little thing like a new sticker book or a toy can make a big difference to a kid in the hospital,” she says. “Sometimes it can turn a whole day around.”

Toys can be motivators, too. Linsey recalls seeing one Mayo Clinic care team use the toy closet to encourage a child to walk, an important part of the recovery process after surgery. “This little girl had a chest tube in, she had to use a walker, and she didn’t want to walk,” Linsey says. “But they told her there was a toy closet down the hall, and if she walked there she could pick out a new toy.” Mission — and therapy — accomplished.

Linsey tells us the toy drive is a way to pay forward the kindness her family has received from others. It’s also a way to teach her own children about the gift of giving back. “It feels good to give,” Linsey says. “I don’t want my girls to have a sense of entitlement. They’ve been through a lot, but that doesn’t mean they get to be selfish. If you have two toys and your neighbor has none, you give a toy to your neighbor.”

It’s a life lesson the Rippy girls have learned well. In spite of their own health challenges, Madi and Sydney both have generous hearts. “They ask, ‘Mom, can we go shopping for the kids in the hospital?’” Linsey tells us. “I’m so proud of my kids.” (Us, too.)

The Rippy family is collecting toys through Dec. 14 for this year’s drive. To learn more, you can visit a Facebook event page they created for the toy drive. If you’d like to donate, you can email Linsey at or order through an Amazon wish list she created. She tells us gifts for teens and babies are most needed.

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Tags: heart transplant, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Patient Stories, Pediatric Heart Transplant Program

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