NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A hospital stay can be scary for a child. But one local program hopes to make that memory a little better.

“This is a toy, so that the child, when they leave, will have a smile, and they’ll think about the toy and not maybe think about what happened when they were being treated,” said Diana Petra, the chairperson of The Toy Closet Program.

The volunteer program was started nearly three decades ago by News 8’s Ann Nyberg. Last year alone, it handed out more than 200,000 toys to children.

The program, run by the Yale New Haven Hospital Auxiliary Services, distributes toys to dozens of clinics across the state.

While it runs throughout the year, the holiday season is when it needs donations the most. Toy drives, like from the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, help.

“We see this every day when we serve families, how difficult it is to have items available for families in need,” Jesse Gomes, with the association, said. “And this is an opportunity for us to give back to the families that we serve.”

Those efforts are greatly appreciated.

“That’s very heartwarming, that people are taking the time and energy to do this,” Petra said. “It’s more important than somebody sending a check sometimes.”