Altamont Family Organizes Massive Toy Donation for Children’s Hospital Patients

Children at the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital now have hundreds of new toys to play with, thanks to a Capital Region woman who wanted to give back in a big way for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Abby and Nate Mason, with toy donations for the Bernard and Millie Duker Children's Hospital Abby Mason, of Altamont, says she was inspired because she and her family have been touched by childhood illness and cancer in various ways.

At the age of 4, Abby was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She says she’s thankful for the doctors, nurses, and treatment that helped her live a healthy life for the past 30 years.

“The outlook of the nurses and doctors allowed me to live successfully with my diagnosis,” said Mason. “It gave me hope. They provided the resources and support to turn a negative into a positive.”

Mason says her husband, Nate, battled cancer in his late teenage years. And five years ago, a close friend’s 10-month-old son died from liver cancer.

Then in October of 2021 her best friend’s 3-year-old son was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor, the most common type of kidney cancer in children. He is Mason’s son Noah’s best friend, and she said she never imagined having to explain what cancer is to her young son.

Over the years, Mason has helped with various fundraisers, like hosting an Alex’s Lemonade Stand, volunteering for Make-A-Wish, and donating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

But this year, knowing September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Mason said she wanted to do something extra special. She put together an Amazon Wish List, and said the response was incredible!

People shared her link across social media, and soon toys were vanishing off the wish list faster than she could post more. Mason also received toy and financial donations from Ballston Spa F.W. Webb, Curry Patta restaurant in Altamont, the Buffalo Regional Geico office, and other anonymous donors. Quickly she had more than $10,000 worth of toys, ranging from infant toys, musical instruments, baby dolls, trucks, Cozy Coupes, craft items, games, books, and much more.

Members of the UAlbany basketball team and Albany Medical Center employees posing with the toy donation

Mason’s husband, Nate, is an assistant athletic director at UAlbany, and he has shared stories of his family’s experience with cancer with the athletes. When UAlbany Men’s Basketball Coach Dwayne Killings heard of the donation and outpouring of kindness from the community, he got his team involved to help deliver and carry the dozens of boxes of toys into the hospital.

"Kids love toys, and it brings a lot of joy to them," said Marcus Jackson, a point guard on the UAlbany Men’s Basketball Team who grew up in Amsterdam, New York. “Being able to help out with something like this means a lot to me, because being from the area, I think any impact I can have on younger kids or anybody in the community means a lot.”

“This donation means so much to us at the children’s hospital,” said Annabel O’Connor, a pediatric oncology/pediatric ICU social worker. “Being in the hospital for any reason is so difficult and providing toys can make the patient feel a little more comfortable in this environment. We can’t wait to give these toys out and see the joy and ease that comes to the kids’ faces. We can’t thank Abby enough for doing this!”

“It has truly been a worldwide effort to make this happen, with donations being made as far as Scotland,” said Mason. “I am so happy that people are as committed as I am to this cause, and I hope we can continue to support Albany Medical Center in the future with such success.”