By December 17, 2019

How Golf Balls Help Bring Toys and Smiles to Sick Kids

Brian Billideau (center) and volunteers Tim Crowley (left) and Doug Stimeling traded in 24,000 golf balls earlier this month and raised $3,600 to buy new toys for kids at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Photo by Abrar Khalid

By Karen Goveia — Twenty-thousand toys for 20,000 smiles in 2020. That’s the goal for Smiles 4 Sick Children, Anthem resident Brian Billideau’s non-profit organization that brings a little joy each year to sick kids at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Following a life-changing accident that took the life of a young girl several years ago, Billideau began giving back as a way to help heal. “I’ve been in a dark hole for a long time and I know I’ll never get out of it, but this helps,” Billideau told In&Out. He launched the non-profit in 2013, and has grown the charity from collecting 245 toys in the first year to roughly 2,400 in 2018.

Along with the toys, Billideau has picked up donors and volunteers. Each year, he strives to add new volunteers and donors to surpass the previous year’s donation to help bring more joy to young people going through a tough time. 

Old Golf Balls, New Toys

Billideau keeps finding creative new ways to grow the number of toys. Recently he began collecting used golf balls in bucket loads to supplement the annual toy drive. As an avid golfer himself until recently, he had his own collection of used golf balls and figured other golfers must have amassed a bunch as well. 

Collection drops are set up at Persimmon and Ironwood golf courses, as well as courses in Flagstaff, and when enough are received, Billideau trades the balls in for cash at a business that refurbishes them. 

He’s collected 124,000 balls since 2017, and has purchased $13,500 in new toys for the children with the proceeds.

What Motivates Him

Motivation isn’t hard to come by. Billideau thinks of the young boy who gets a new bike while in the hospital and imagines his excitement to bring it home and ride it. Or, he imagines a little girl with her new doll set or bracelet set, and the fact that even if only for a short while―it takes their minds off their illness. The gifts help parents smile, too. 

“Every time a child smiles at the hospital, I know a little girl in heaven smiles,” he said.

Loading and delivering thousands of toys to PCH each year adds to the joy. With more than 75 volunteers last year—it took a caravan to deliver all the gifts. 

Because the hospital usually runs out of toys by spring, Billideau is targeting a new goal in 2020―to deliver 20,000 toys and to collect 250,000 golf balls. Roughly 18,000 children spend some time as patients at the hospital every year, he said.

“The hospital may run out of toys, but they’ll never run out of kids,” he said. 

3 Ways to Help

Smiles 4 Sick Children accepts new, unwrapped toys, as well as new clothes, along with financial donations and, of course, old golf balls. Businesses and schools can volunteer to be collection sites. 

  • To volunteer time or get a drop box for your business, email Billideau at labs4ever9752@gmail.com
  • Drop off new toys at Prickett Realty (42104 N. Venture Drive, Suite C-118, Anthem), or other drop boxes, including Anthem Community Center, Persimmon Bar & Grille and Ironwood Grille in Anthem Country Club. Visit www.smiles4sickchildren.com for a list of preferred toys.
  • Mail checks to Smiles 4 Sick Children, c/o Brian Billideau, 2114 W. Legends Way, Anthem, AZ 85086.

Billideau welcomes volunteers to help collect golf balls from collection sites, as well as to help with the loading and delivery of the toys, set for 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. Deadline for toy drop-off is Friday, Dec. 20.

This article first published on North Phoenix News.

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