Cape Coral, FL,
07:44 AM

Toys for Boys

In wake of unspeakable loss, boys in Florida benefit from toy drive.

Ryan and Rachel Gentile lost their infant son, Alexander, in 2013 in a tragic drowning accident.

It shook the South Florida community of Cape Coral and reached the office in State Farm Agent Dawn Sullivan through team member Jeannette Mora. Jeannette’s son, Ely, plays on the same baseball team as the Gentile’s other son.

At the time of his drowning five years ago, the Gentiles had already purchased Alexander’s Christmas gifts. As the family coped and tried to recover from their unspeakable loss, they wanted someone to benefit from the gifts, so they partnered with the toy drive put on by the Cape Coral Police Department.

Those donations helped at least two families — the family in need that received the presents and the Gentiles.

Today, dozens are the benefactors of Alexander’s Toy Drive that Michael and Dawn Sullivan help with each year.

Alexander would have been 6 years old this month. This year, more than 100 gifts were given and distributed to 6-year-old boys in the area through the Cape Coral Police Department.

“There are a lot of people who are looking to help in this way during the holiday season,” says Dawn, a State Farm agent for 12 years. “Folks drop off toys at our office, and Ryan and Rachel come to pick them up and deliver them.”

Dawn and her husband, Michael, also a State Farm agent in Cape Coral, used their offices as drop points for community members to bring gifts.

“We have always helped various toy drives as part of the community and with State Farm,” says Dawn. “This one hit home because of the relationship between Jeannette and Alexander’s mom.”

Dawn and Michael helped market the toy drive by publishing lists of age-appropriate gifts and targeting the message at those who looking for ways to give.

“The best thing about it was a huge network of organized giving that came of it,” says Michael.

“It is a great opportunity to help a family we personally know,” says Dawn. “There’s no greater satisfaction for us than to help someone in a time of crisis. This family has done its best to turn a tragedy into something positive.”

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