HAMILTON (Mercer) — At just seven months old, Joey Angiolino was diagnosed with a rare disease known as Hurler syndrome, being one of the first children in New Jersey known to suffer from the ailment.

After another seven months of tests, chemotherapy, and a blood transplant, Joey's fight ended. But his name lives on in the form of an organization offering support to families with children battling various illnesses.

Joey's father, James Angiolino, said after their child's death, he and his wife Nicole resolved to do something positive in his name and give hope to other families. That is how Joey's Little Angels was born.

In addition to medical bills, the organization assists with mortgage and rent payments — paying forward the good deeds done for the Angiolinos when they temporarily moved to North Carolina for Joey's treatment at Duke University Hospital.

"We always felt that was something that we wanted to do, and people are so grateful for that when we do that, because it takes the weight off of their shoulders a little bit, not having to worry about getting their house paid for," James Angiolino said.

A partnership with the Sunshine Foundation has additionally resulted in Joey's Little Angels sending several kids they have assisted to Walt Disney World, for a fun and relaxing distraction with their families.

"One thing that we like to focus on is not just the child that's undergoing medical treatment, but the siblings as well, because it is a difficult situation for them," Angiolino said. "So we try to spread the love as much as we can."

Perhaps most indicative of Joey's Little Angels' impact and outreach is its ever-growing toy drive, which is nearing a ninth annual edition on Nov. 30 at the Nottingham Ballroom in Hamilton. The first toy drive was in the Angiolinos' living room, and collected 87 toys. Now, the target is 5,000.

Those toys will be added to a tally of 14,000 in the last eight years that the group has donated to 18 pediatric hospitals. At first, Duke was the sole recipient, but now New Jersey hospitals comprise most of the 18. James Angiolino said it is a clear goal for his family to give back to those in their home state as much as possible.

For more information, visit joeyslittleangels.org.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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