West Hartford seventh grader Evan Forrest with Village Associate Vice President of Intensive Treatment Dr. Jennifer Lusa

West Hartford Student Raises Nearly $700 To Provide Toys for Children Living at The Village

Donations will provide comfort for children facing mental health challenges

A local middle school student is celebrating his bar mitzvah with a special project to provide toys and games for children who are living at The Village for Families & Children and receiving mental health support after facing significant challenges.

Evan Forrest, a seventh-grade West Hartford student, raised nearly $700 to purchase toys for children at The Village and also collected toy donations as part of his mitzvah project.

“Mitzvah is a good deed done from a religious duty,” Evan said. “I donated these toys because they connect to my hobbies—like brain toys and puzzle games. It fit with themes for my life and my bar mitzvah, and I thought this was a perfect idea.”

Among the donated items are therapeutic Mandala coloring books, logic games like Rubik’s Cubes and Gravity Maze, playing cards and puzzles. The toys will help children in The Village’s psychiatric residential treatment facility, Eagle House, by providing comfort and enjoyment as they learn coping skills, heal from trauma and work through mental health challenges compounded by COVID-19.

Evan Forrest (second from right) with mom Debra Forrest (left), dad Bennett Forrest (left-center), and Village Associate Vice President of Intensive Treatment Dr. Jennifer Lusa (right).
Evan Forrest (second from right) with mom Debra Forrest (left), dad Bennett Forrest (left-center), and Village Associate Vice President of Intensive Treatment Dr. Jennifer Lusa (right).

“The children who will receive these games are ages six to twelve and stay with us for about four to six months to work on themselves so they can get back to their home, school and community,” said Village Associate Vice President of Intensive Treatment Dr. Jennifer Lusa. “These gifts are so amazing, and we’re so appreciative. Evan is such a special young man.”

While living at Eagle House, children receive support as they transition from psychiatric hospitalizing to a family or foster care setting. During this time, they are often away from family and friends. The new toys and games will provide comfort and remind them they’re not alone.