A memorable Christmas for kids
When Carldon Lahey went for a walk Jan. 6, 2007, he never could have predicted the outcome.
“I received a calling from God that day,” said Lahey. “And I have been following that calling ever since. It’s that simple.”
That calling not only changed Lahey’s life – it has changed hundreds of lives over the past six years. He started Christ’s Starfish Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support to sick children and their families. The foundation is one of very few, if any, organizations in the United States that focus solely on assisting the families of non-cancer pediatric patients.
The foundation’s biggest annual project comes at Christmas. It works with local children’s hospitals in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando and Atlanta to provide gifts for all hospitalized children, including cancer and non-cancer patients, on Christmas Day.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, Lahey and colleague, Riley Woods, along with members of First Baptist Church of Ocala’s youth group, delivered approximately 2,000 gifts to 122 children to Shands Hospital for Children at UF, one of the largest donations provided to the Gainesville children’s hospital.
“Christ’s Starfish Foundation has been so supportive of our pediatric patients, and they do it for all of the right reasons,” said Amy Wegner, a child life specialist at Shands Hospital for Children at UF. “The foundation provides more than just support during the holidays – they help better the lives of our children and their families throughout the entire year.”
Founded in Jacksonville, Christ’s Starfish Foundation expanded to Shands Hospital for Children at UF in 2008 after a former patient, Riley Woods, 20, became involved.
“I have a passion for helping others and have always wanted to give back. Because of my experience as a child, Shands Hospital for Children at UF seemed like a fitting place to do so,” said Woods.
Thanks to Lahey and Woods, Christ’s Starfish Foundation fulfilled 50 requests for assistance at Shands Hospital for Children at UF this year. It also hosted its first golf tournament at Gainesville Golf and Country Club in September 2012, and continues to expand its presence within the community. But for now, the focus is right where it should be – on making this Christmas a memorable one for the kids at Shands Hospital for Children at UF.