WANTAGH - A Wantagh man who has been helping children for nearly 25 years is searching for the person who inspired him to launch his foundation.
As News 12 has reported over the years, the John Theissen Children's Foundation provides toys for kids facing hardships. It has donated nearly 1 million toys to date.
In 1988, Theissen was a 17-year-old set to undergo brain surgery to remove a tumor at what was then known as Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park. While there, a sick 7-year-old girl did something that he would never forget, he says.
The family of a young girl named Tasha could not attend a hospital Christmas party. Fearing she'd never meet Santa, Theissen's mother volunteered to to take her to meet the big guy, as Theissen was too sick himself to go. When Tasha met Santa, she had just one simple, selfless request.
"Santa handed her a big white teddy bear and she said, 'Santa, I want it for my friend upstairs to make him feel better,'" Theissen recalls.
He says he never forgot that act of kindness, and it inspired him to create his foundation. But he never saw Tasha after that week in the hospital, and now, decades later, he's trying to find her to show her what she's inspired him to do.
Theissen says he's asked nurses and doctors about Tasha in the past, but no one seems to know her current whereabouts. He hopes she's still out there just so he can say, "thank you."
Anyone with information on Tasha can call the foundation at 516-679-TOYS.