Local Teen Continues Tradition of Spreading Holiday Cheer to Children at Shore Memorial

December 10, 2009

Many of us struggle just to get our holiday shopping started by mid December. For Ali Shuster, the gift-gathering season has to start as early as January so she can collect enough toys to make her annual donation to the pediatrics department at Shore Memorial Hospital.

The 17-year old Margate native, who dropped off her annual donation to Shore Memorial on Wednesday, December 9, has been spreading holiday cheer to local children since she was 12 years old. At the time Shuster was preparing for her upcoming bat mitzvah and was searching for a “mitzvah,” or good deed, to perform as part of the process. She chose to collect toy donations from local businesses and give them to the hospital.

“The thing was I wanted to bring happiness to people who were in need,” Shuster says.

Five years have come and gone, and Shuster continues to show up each December with a carload of toys for Shore Memorial’s young patients.

This year Shuster started in January and spent the better part of 2009 contacting area businesses for donations. The donors included Kidrageous in Margate, Heritage Surf & Sport in Margate and Barbara’s Clothing Store in Linwood.

One of the interesting things is how this project has grown over the years,” says Maria Spear, child life specialist at Shore Memorial. “When she (Ali) first started out she brought some items to the hospital. This year I had to get two flatbed pushcarts to get everything up.”

It’s hard work for just one person, but the results are worth it, Shuster says.

“Last year there was a newborn baby who was going to be adopted and I gave (the parents) a really pretty blanket set,” Shuster recalls. “Obviously the baby had no idea, but the parents were very grateful.”

Shuster, a senior at Atlantic City High School, says she plans to continue the tradition next year even though she will be away at college for most of the year. “I know the holiday time is supposed to be a happy time,” Shuster says. “And it must be really difficult if you’re not able to be with your family having fun.”

Pictured above: Ali Shuster, 17, of Margate spreads holiday cheer with her annual donation of toys to the pediatrics department at Shore Memorial Hospital. Maria Spear, Shore Memorial’s child life specialist, accepts the donation at the hospital on December 9.