By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer

Courtesy Photo (From Left) Keegan Riley, Zachary Croteau, Andrew Hennessy, Andrew Flaherty and Brayden Rudert deliver gift baskets of toys to children with cancer in the Boston Children’s Hospital.  Aside from toys, they also gave 12 Market Basket giftcards to the families of the diagnosed children. They delivered the toys and gift cards on Nov. 21.

Courtesy Photo
(From Left) Keegan Riley, Zachary Croteau, Andrew Hennessy, Andrew Flaherty and Brayden Rudert deliver gift baskets of toys to children with cancer in the Boston Children’s Hospital. Aside from toys, they also gave 12 Market Basket giftcards to the families of the diagnosed children. They delivered the toys and gift cards on Nov. 21.

One fraternity at the University of New Hampshire kept with the holiday spirit of giving thanks by giving back to the community.

Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) made a drive on Nov. 21 to Boston Children’s Hospital to deliver gift baskets of toys to the patients suffering from cancer.

The fraternity brothers received a warm welcome from the staff and patients of the Boston Children’s Hospital.

“When we got [to the hospital], we were welcomed in with open arms. The directors at the hospital were extremely grateful,” said Zac Croteau, the chief marketing officer of PIKE. “The energy in that hospital is unlike any other hospital I’ve ever been in. The people there truly care. They love being there and helping the children.”

The cause holds a special place in the hearts of the PIKE brothers.

“We often gear our philanthropy efforts toward cancer-related issues as one of our brothers [Taylor Trudeau] passed away in 2008 in his senior year here at UNH from leukemia,” Croteau said.

But the cause is personal for the fraternity for more than a memory. One of PIKE’s current brothers, Keegan Riley, survived leukemia as a child.

Riley battled with leukemia from age 5 until it went into remission at age 8. At 21, Riley is a junior civil engineering major.

Though Riley was treated at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, he was glad to be able to help Boston Children’s Hospital.

“… It felt great to go present the donations in Boston,” Riley said.

Riley knows well what a difference a simple gift can make when a child is hospitalized.

“It’s little things like the toys that keep you going and keep you moving in a positive direction,” Riley said.

Riley also knows that children’s caregivers can form deep bonds with their patients from personal experience.

“I got to meet the oncology caregivers that make the terrible experience of being hospitalized more bearable,” Riley said. “That was special because I will never ever forget my oncology nurse. Her name is Therese Mirisola. I always knew her as Tee. She got me through everything, and we still keep in touch.”

The idea for the drive began when Croteau was trying to think of ways for PIKE to improve their public relations while helping children.

Croteau asked Andrew Hennessy, the emergency department supervisor at Boston Children’s Hospital and an alumnus of PIKE, if the fraternity could donate gift baskets of toys to the hospital.

“[Hennessy] thought it was an amazing idea and green lit the project,” Croteau said.

After Hennessy approved of the project, each of the 80 brothers in Pi Kappa Alpha contributed $10 towards the effort.

“We have a strong brotherhood,” Croteau said. “And we love doing things like this.”

Croteau and Riley took the money and bought 30 toys — 15 action figures, including Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk and John Cena. The fraternity brothers also bought 15 Disney princess dolls. “… The characters from ‘Frozen’ were the children’s favorite,” Croteau said. The toys went into gift baskets for the children.

Beyond the toys, PIKE brought 12 Market Basket gift cards in an effort to aid the families of the child patients.

“… We were told that gift cards really help the parents,” Croteau said.

“I am happy to give back,” Riley said.