By helping others, he helps himself
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Dillon Marshall-Alley, 18, a senior at Lincoln Park High School, has found that the more he helps others, the more he helps himself overcome the challenges of his autism.
His mother, Sheri Alley, got her son involved with philanthropy as a young teen, as a way to help him learn to interact with others and move beyond his comfort zone, while helping others in need. He has helped food pantries, veterans and different philanthropic organizations with different drives in recent years, as he expanded his own comfort zone.
Christmas has additional meaning to both, as it is Dillon’s birthday, as well.
This winter, after completing a Veterans Day drive for homeless and at-risk veterans, he turned his focus to the Lincoln Park Goodfellows to help with the group’s annual holiday toy drive. New, unwrapped toys were collected through Dec. 13, along with cash donations, which were used to purchase toys and gifts needed which were not collected through item donation.
Different groups helped Marshall-Alley with his toy collection, including the Lincoln Park dental office of Michael Izzo, DDS, which encouraged donors with a $50 raffle prize to be awarded later to a donor.
The Arc Downriver, in Wyandotte, a non-profit group which advocates for individuals with developmental challenges, also collected toys for the drive.
Southgate Veterans of Foreign Wars post 9283 auxiliary donated money for the purchase of toys, as did the Shielded Souls Motorcycle Club of New Boston, as did many other individual private donors.
Shari Alley said that, in addition to cash donations, some people anonymously left boxes of new toys on their porch.
On Dec. 14, Marshall-Alley went shopping for toys for the Goodfellows drive with Lincoln Park Police Officer Matt Werling at the Lincoln Park Meijer, where Santa Bucks and Buy-One-Get-One toy specials increased their purchasing power by more than 50 percent.
Marshall-Alley’s toy drive for the Lincoln Park Goodfellows ended Dec. 15, but that didn’t stop his work on behalf of the less fortunate.
On Dec. 18, he and his mother were at Emmanuel House in Detroit, a shelter for homeless veterans, delivering 64 coats from his Veterans Day drive for the shelter’s Christmas party. They also brought each veteran a new pillow and new sheets, and a backpack filled with towels and other items.
Marshall-Alley’s work inspired the Dearborn Insurance Agency, which does an annual school supply drive, to make a donation Dec. 19 to the LPHS Autism Spectrum Disorder program on his behalf.
Alley extended thanks on their behalf to all who helped with the toy drive, and expressed her heartfelt thoughts about her son’s work.
“Thank you, Lord, for blessing him with a giving heart and thank you for allowing me to be his mom,” she said.