Lily Bonacasa has been through more than most children—her father Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan five years ago.
The tragedy occurred a few days before Christmas and prompted Lily to build a nonprofit organization in his honor. Lily’s Toy House raises money to distribute toys to children, fulfilling Lily’s wish to give children a joyful Christmas. She is assisted by many veterans groups, who have helped organize toy drives and donations.
“I just wanted to do this because of my dad,” Lily told News12. “He did a lot of nice things, and said a lot of nice things. So I want to do the same thing. It’s kind of my job.”
The Bonacasa family has been a beloved part of their South Beach community. After Louis’ passing, a local developer built a home for the family at cost, gifted Lily toys and snuck surprises throughout the home like a washer and dryer. On top of that, neighbors raised $20,000 for the family.
It’s clear the community’s kindness impacted Lily during an unimaginable time for a child.
In an interview with Today, Lily shared the inspiration behind her organization and how it’s her mission to make sure all children have toys on Christmas.
It begins with a voiceover from Lily:
“My name is Lily Bonacasa and I am nine years old. I wanted to help people because my daddy was killed in action in Afghanistan.”
In the interview, Savannah Guthrie asked Lily’s mom Deborah if she sees Louis in Lily.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “She is daddy’s girl. Exact same smile, everything.”
Recently, Lily’s Toy House dropped off a large delivery to Head Start, which offers early childhood education opportunities to low-income families.
As for Lily’s Toy House’s future, Lily says she intends to make the holidays better for children every year.