Jessy Haberman flashed his characteristic smile in front of a bunch of toys collected for Jessy’s Toy Box. Toys may be donated in Britton at Hurley & Associates.

Little Boy With Big Legacy

It all began when a little Power Ranger drew a big smile.

Jessy Haberman, the late son of Jim and Heather Haberman of Wyndmere, ND, was just four years old when he was at the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, ND, to receive an iron infusion just before Christmas. He was born with an unknown syndrome, and his body was not capable of storing iron.

“The process took eight hours, and it’s tough for a four-year-old to sit for that long,” said Heather. “They gave him a little Power Ranger that took him out of the moment for a little bit, and for a mother, it meant the world to me.”

It also inspired Jessy. He decided he wanted to give something to others who were receiving infusions, and the idea for Jessy’s Toy Box was born.

His mom posted a message on Facebook and that first year people donated a vanload of toys to area hospitals. The second year Jessy wanted to do it again, and two van-loads were gathered, and last year three vans were filled.

“When I say van-loads, they were completely packed,” said Heather. “It was an unbelievable amount of toys.”

In February of this year Jessy died. After undergoing open heart surgery, his 15th surgery in his eight years of life, his organs began shutting down and he suffered a stroke, passing away on Feb. 19. But before he went into surgery, Jessy asked his parents a question.

“He said, ‘If my heart gets better, can I still do Jessy’s Toy box?’” recalled Heather. “So as a promise his father and I made to him, we are continuing his dream of every child getting a toy from Jessy’s Toy Box.”

There is a collection point for toys or monetary contributions in Britton at Hurley & Associates located in Main Street Center (754 Main Street) as well as at Salon Remix in Aberdeen (408 Main Street South). Any type of new toys are accepted. Additional contact information is available at

“I think people forget how sick kids can get,” noted Heather. “They just need something to brighten their day, anything that can help bring a smile to their face. It helps the nurses, too. They have said it feels like Christmas all year long.”

Haberman said that Jessy’s Toy Box is for children ages 0-18, and she stressed the items don’t need to be fancy toys.

“Just some nail polish can help make a girl feel beautiful, and crayons, drawing paper, or different craft things can all help to occupy their time.”

Jessy’s Toy Box is also helping the Haberman family to occupy its time since Jessy’s passing, at the same time honoring a little boy who gave so much to so many.

“When Jessy was born we were told he would probably never walk, talk, or even roll over,” remembered Heather. “But my husband and I have never been ones to say you can’t do something.”

He was over a year old when he started walking, and the first time he said, ‘Mom,’ he was three. But his family made sure he had the chance to live life.

“We never put him in a bubble,” stressed Heather, “and he was always full of life and adventure. He was that wild, crazy, funny kid that liked to pull pranks and joke around. Jessy also had a love for water and loved to swim. He even tried waterskiing one time. He could do just about anything, but his body wouldn’t let him excel.”

But what impacted those around him was Jessy’s attitude and ever-present smile.

“He always had the biggest smile. Even when he was just a baby, he would light up anybody’s day,” said Heather. “I always said when he walked into a room he owned it, and everybody just fell in love with him.”

His mom didn’t realize the impact Jessy had on others until after he passed away.

“I didn’t realize how many lives he had touched – some people I had never met. People thanked us for sharing him with them, and I’m just so glad that he touched so many hearts the way he did.”

Jessy’s Toy Box is continuing to touch hearts and growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to North and South Dakota, and Minnesota, Jessy’s Toy Boxes are spreading to Michigan, Rhode Island, and Florida. The Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE) business fraternity, to which Jessy’s Dad belonged to in college, is also implementing Jessy’s Toy Box at its 58 chapters throughout the United States.

“Slowly but surely we’re making progress towards every child in every hospital getting a toy,” said Heather.

It’s definitely a team effort. Jessy’s three siblings – 18-year-old Mason, 11-year old McKinlee, and six-yearold Brystol – all help out, and Heather spends virtually all of her free time when not substitute teaching working with Jessy’s Toy Box. The Wyndmere FFA made 10 boxes with the handprints of Jessy’s second grade classmates on those boxes; Sean and Tina Morris of Wyndmere, who also have a son with heart issues, help build the boxes; and various companies donate community service time to the project.

“We just want to make sure that Jessy’s Toy Box continues,” concluded Heather. “We hope to do it as long as we can and hope our children keep it going. It’s such a good way to give back.

“It’s like we still feel Jessy’s presence in our house, and Jessy’s Toy Box has been helpful and healing. Our other three kids also get to help with this, and they knew what kind of joy Jessy got out of doing it. The days when I think I can’t do it, I think of Jessy. He went through a lot worse than I have, and I try to keep smiling for him.”

Doctors still don’t know what caused Jessy’s health issues. They think it was some kind of a blood disorder but never before had they dealt with a similar case. Just two other kids, and possibly a third, in the entire world are dealing with similar issues.

“Jessy quit breathing when he was six weeks old and I had to give him CPR to keep him going,” concluded Heather. “I’m always saying he should have gone then, but God had a purpose for him, and it was for Jessy’s Toy Box.”

Marshall County Journal

PO Box 69, Britton, SD 57430
Phone: (605) 448-2281
Fax: (605) 448-2282