Death of son inspires Rowlett family

December 01, 2016 - Mesquite News

Poteet High grads collect stuffed animals for local hospital

Surrounded by the medical team that helped bring their son into the world, Adam and Whitney Zapotocky delivered 250 stuffed animals to Children’s Medical Center in 2014. Photo courtesy of Adam Zapotocky.

The loss of a child is one of the hardest things any parent could ever deal with. For Poteet High School grads Adam and Whitney Zapotocky they are trying to keep the memory of their son alive by providing smiles and comfort to area children through the gift of stuffed animals.

About Tyler

Tyler Ray Zapotocky was born Nov. 5, 2014. He spent the entire 32 minutes of his life on his mother’s chest. The couple knew Tyler would not survive due to a diagnosis of Potters Sequence.

Shortly after his death, Tyler’s liver was procured and liver enzymes were extracted. When a match is found, other babies whose livers do not function properly will receive liver enzyme injections in hopes of prolonging their life just a little longer.

Since Tyler was born and the neonatal organ donation program started, there have been five other families who have participated in organ donation after receiving devastating news regarding their pregnancies. Donate Life is honoring Tyler by having his picture on their Donate Life Rose Bowl Parade Float this year.

The drive for stuffed animals

The Rowlett couple named their stuffed animal collection effort Tyler’s Toyz and they are in the process of getting nonprofit status for it, with hopes of expanding the project’s efforts to impact more children. They have a Facebook page,, dedicated to the effort, with a website on its way.

“We are in the works of making it an official nonprofit and we hope to do the toy drive from this point forward,” Adam said.

The project to collect stuff animals began at the funeral of their son. The couple has experienced an outpouring of support from friends, family and strangers who became familiar with their story. Not wanting the be overwhelmed with flowers at the funeral, the couple decided to ask guests to bring stuffed animals in lieu of flowers.

“The kind thing to do at a funeral is bring flowers, but I am not much of a green-thumb so we looked at each other and wondered what we were going to with a lot of flowers. One of us had the idea to ask for stuffed animals so we could pass the love on to someone else,” Whitney said.

When the total count was in they donated just over 250 stuffed animals to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.

“At the funeral, we expected quite a few people to bring stuffed animals as we requested. It turned out that everyone that came brought stuffed animals,” Adam said. “When the funeral was over we had loaded two or three cars with stuffed animals.”

It was at that moment, they decided they wanted to collect stuffed animals every year and Tyler’s Toyz was born. To meet the hospital requirements, all stuffed animals must be new and unused since many of the patients have been immune-compromised.

In 2015, the couple gathered 336 stuffed animals and has set a goal of 400 stuffed animals this year.

“Last year people messaged me from their organizations and they collected from their club and we met up at the police station last year,” Whitney said.

Adam said there are businesses in east Texas and in other states that are collecting stuffed animals to send for the drive. He said they hope to be able to accept monetary donations in the future as well, but right now they are only set up to collect stuffed animals.

The couple will take them to Children’s Medical Center where they are loaded into huge carts on wheels so they can hand them over to hospital staff. Last year, a chance encounter with a young female patient who was just out of surgery provided the couple a chance to see the impact firsthand the stuffed animals had on the patients.

“We brought them in and we could see her looking at them. It was fun to let her pick from three giant carts of toys. It really warms the heart,” Whitney said.

Adam fondly remembers the pink unicorn the girl selected.

“To see the smile that one animal put on her face is what we hope to see on the faces of all the kids who get one,” he said.


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