Loud and always smiling. That is how friends and family describe Oliver Hopkins, an 8-year-old boy from La Grande. Known to everyone as Ollie, the little boy brought joy and happiness to those around him, according to a family friend, Tashia DeCoteau. Ollie passed away Sept. 8 from complications from the flu, but his legacy will live on in a toy drive started by those who knew him and loved him.
Ollie was born Oct. 18, 2010, with tumors on his eyes that could not be removed. In addition to being blind, he was nonverbal and had health issues that limited his mobility. When Ollie got sick, he had to fight harder than most, DeCoteau said, yet his early death was a shock to his family and friends.
“I think that is one thing that made it so hard, it was just so unexpected,” DeCoteau said.
Even though Ollie couldn’t see or speak, DeCoteau said, he had no limitations because of his father, Kent Hopkins. With his father’s help, Ollie could skateboard and play guitar and loved being outside and in the water.
“He had a lot of special needs, but there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do,” DeCoteau said.
Ollie was everything to his father, and in some ways he saved his life, Hopkins said.
“He turned a would-be criminal, a drug addict, into a decent father,” Hopkins said.
To honor his son, Hopkins wrote a song that he performed at his memorial service and has posted it to YouTube to keep Ollie’s memory alive.
“I just love music, and Ollie did too,” Hopkins said. “Some people go to therapy, but I use music to keep me strong.”
Ollie’s extended family and friends have found their own way to keep his memory alive. Ollie loved loud toys, which is what inspired them to organize “Ollie’s Obnoxious Toy Drive.” On Sept. 13, Ollie’s friends and their parents began organizing a toy drive to celebrate Ollie. They hope to get donations of the loudest, most obnoxious toys but will take any toy donations, such as a generous gift of 1,000 stuffed animals they have already received.
“It’s more to help the kids with the grieving process,” DeCoteau said. “We’ve tried to explain that even though he is gone from us, we can still celebrate all that he has taught us, like unconditional love.”
Since the drive began, the group has collected more than $2,000 worth of toys and cash donations. All monetary donations go directly to purchasing toys that will be given along with the donated toys to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where Ollie received medical treatments.
“We want to make kids as happy as Ollie made us,” DeCoteau said. “It is a way he can still bring smiles.”
Ollie’s friends plan to drive to the hospital Oct. 12 to drop off their donations, and are accepting them until then. To donate you can contact DeCoteau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-910-6814.