When it came time to donate, those toys, once so dear to the two Hanover Park High School basketball players, were among the items they chose to contribute.
Santora, Ilutzi and Lauren Daugherty, all juniors, organized the toy donation as part of the Fall Hoop Classic that was hosted by the Hornets on Nov. 19 and 20. Twelve teams, including perennial power and defending Group II champion Shabazz, played four games apiece in the tournament over the weekend.
"I feel bad for kids in the hospital," Santora said. "They don't get to enjoy things like other kids. Giving them a great Christmas is something we can do."
Santora has a more personal connection to the children at St. Barnabas than the others. Her 13-year-old cousin, Gianna Brunini, has cerebral palsy and visits the hospital often for checkups accompanied by her mother, Maryann.
For Ilutzi, the chance to be involved in the toy drive was appealing because she got to be part of the tradition started by former Hanover Park players Alyssa Satriano and Ashley Merwin.
"It's a great way to help out kids in need," Ilutzi said. "We're a young group of girls capable of doing things so we need to be helpful to our community."
Ilutzi said she always favored stuffed animals because "they're something to hold."
"It's like a companion, a friend," she said.
Daugherty, too, enjoyed doing something beneficial while having the opportunity to play with her teammates versus Bishop Ahr, West Morris, Northern Highlands and Point Pleasant.
"The drive has been successful in the past. Why not do it again?" Daugherty said. "Doing this is amazing. It's hard being in the hospital a long time as a little kid. It's good to give them a little joy."
Likewise, there was plenty of joy in the main and auxiliary gyms at Hanover Park as players showed off their skills to college coaches. In addition to the Hornets and West Morris, Morris County teams taking part were Chatham, Randolph and Parsippany. The majority of the squads had parents serve as coaches.
Parsippany went 0-4, falling to Randolph, Chatham, Watchung Hills and Northern Highlands, yet junior guard Ashley Burroughs wasn't disappointed.
"The tournament was good because it got us together," Burroughs said. "We're getting ready for the season. We're working together. We found out what we need to do. I'm really excited. I can't wait."
Burroughs feels the Red Hawks have to refine their defense. She liked what she saw, though, in terms of "heart and playing our best."
"It's just the beginning," Burroughs said. "This was a life lesson. We need to work hard and develop a core. We're here to win championships."
Daugherty reveled in spending time with the Hornets and getting a glimpse of other teams. Hanover Park didn't fare well over the weekend but is not discouraged.
"Don't pay attention to anything that happened here," she said. "We'll come around."