Published: December 07, 2016
UT Freshman Is Little Saint Nick
Raymond Mohler ’20 shares his birthday with Christmas Eve. And in a tradition that started when he was a young kid, he also shares his toys.
Mohler is the founder of the Little Saint Nick Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to help children cope with pain, fear and isolation who are sick in the hospital.
“I’ve gone to hospitals where there were only two kids who could be seen, and I had to wear the full mask and gown, but then there’s other hospitals where there’s 60 kids who come down to the play room, and it’ll be fun,” Mohler said of the hospital events he’ll host. “It’s heartbreaking, and it gives you perspective. That’s the biggest thing, since I was little. It’s an emotionally draining thing when you go, but it gives you perspective.”
When he was 4, Mohler had a hip joint disease that caused him to spend eight hours in the hospital. He had to wear a brace on his legs at night for two years, and couldn’t play sports as he wasn’t able to run or jump. But he felt fortunate it was relatively short-term. He donated his birthday gifts that first year to the kids he left behind in the hospital, and it’s been a tradition ever since.
“When I was in the hospital the fear and anxiety I had, I felt like I needed to give back to the kids that were still there,” said Mohler, of Long Island, NY. “At the time, I never realized there were kids in the hospital a long time. I was in there for eight hours, and I was going crazy.”
He started collecting donations of toys and money, and it’s grown ever since. His foundation hosts a toy drive from right after Thanksgiving through to Christmas in New York and St. Louis with about 20 donation locations. This year they hosted their 10th annual golf outing and dinner fundraiser, which attracts about 300 people.
“Our goal is to get big sponsorships so we don’t just have volunteers, but we have full-time employees,” said Mohler, an economics major and sport management minor, who speaks about his experience and foundation to schools and groups as well. He hopes to connect UT students to the work he is doing, and learn how to better run the foundation to foster its growth.
While Mohler’s parents, Raymond Sr. and Dina, who run an air conditioning and heating business, are heavily involved, he is making decisions and running the foundation remotely as he is able from UT. They have at least 30 volunteers who help with the golf outing, plus hundreds of individual volunteers from family and friends to scout troops, school groups and others all pitching in to help with the foundation’s efforts.
In addition to the holiday toy drive, the Little Saint Nick Foundation provides 300–500 gift bags for children in emergency rooms each month at two hospitals in New York and one in Missouri, hosts parties at hospitals, grants wishes (one was an $80,000 home extension for a severely handicapped child) and visits bedside with kids. The Huffington Post recently featured the foundation for its get well card contest.
Mohler was recently featured on Nickelodeon’s Halo Effect, and a child from St. Louis who was watching the show was inspired to help out. Mohler assisted him in setting up a gift bag program and right before Thanksgiving, he flew down to meet the boy, hosting a gift bag packing and hospital event with around 100 volunteers.
“It’s about inspiring younger people right now,” said Mohler.
Learn more about the Little Saint Nick Foundation.