March of the toy-bearing soldiers


March of the toy-bearing soldiers


ISLIP TOWN—The Toy March in Memory of Devin got off without a hitch on Sunday afternoon. A little rain didn’t stop a group of volunteer veterans from delivering gifts to sick children who couldn’t be home for the holidays. 

Members of the Airborne Tri Team, a nonprofit organization for mentally and physically disabled veterans, marched west on Montauk Highway, from Gillette Park in Sayville to Southside Hospital–Northwell Health in Bay Shore, dressed in camouflage Santa costumes and carrying rucksacks filled with toys. 

The new charitable endeavor was in memory of Devin Robles, a 10-year-old developmentally delayed boy who tragically drowned on Dec. 9, 2010. Devin’s mother and stepfather, Delilah and Jamie Bustemante, both serve with the Suffolk County Police Department and are both Marine Corps and Air Force veterans.

Young Enrichment Services had over a dozen needy families from throughout Islip Town waiting in the hospital lobby to receive the gifts. After the first round of toys were handed out, ATT delivered even more toys to a handful of children who were in private rooms in the hospital. 

Ronald Hurtago, ATT’s executive director, said the long walk in the rain was worth it to see the looks on the kids’ faces. 

According to the organization’s website, the main goal of ATT is to provide war veterans with opportunities, physical challenges and goal-oriented physical achievements to maximize their potential and increase their self-esteem.  

Hurtago said the march, which took about two and a half hours, was also a “good bonding experience” for the men and women who participated. 

Suffolk County Legis. Bill Lindsay (D-Holbrook), who helped organize the event, also participated in the 11-mile walk. Before the crew left Gillette Park, Lindsay joked that a hearse, meant for him, would be following the group. After arriving at Southside Hospital, he said that the walk was “cold and wet,” but ultimately worth it for the cause. Lindsay hopes this will become an annual event in honor of Devin. 

The Community Ambulance Company, which helped escort the marchers along Montauk Highway, also donated $100 Buy Buy Baby gift certificates for each child in the neonatal intensive care unit. 

Jamie Atkinson, who sits on the ambulance company’s board of directors, was present to see the marchers off at Gillette Park and greet everyone when they arrived at Southside. He too looks forward to a similar event next year. “We’re doing this for Devin,” Atkinson said. “We might [visit] a different hospital [next year], but once we start something like this, it isn’t going to stop.” 

Delilah and Jamie Bustemante were also present to see everyone off at Gillette Park. Delilah was too emotional to speak at the time, but Jamie thanked everyone who was about to walk for helping to keep “Devin’s memory alive.” 

Later, at the hospital, Delilah explained that eight years ago, her family was in the hospital for Devin during the holidays. “If we can bring a smile to some faces, it’s worth it,” she said.