Giving Patients a Christmas Morning
For children who celebrate Christmas, the night before is the longest night of the year. Christmas morning brings the grand reveal of presents under the tree. For the pediatric patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Santa may not be stopping in their living room—but he will be making his rounds to their hospital rooms.
Santa stops by each unit on Christmas Eve, visiting with the patients, taking pictures and making sure his list reflects their wishes. That night, volunteers sift through the gifts donated to determine which ones are most appropriate for which patients—based on interests, medical conditions and even wish lists they have written.
“We really rely on the generosity of the community, especially this time of year, to make sure these kids get a Christmas morning like they would get if they were home,” said Chris Brown, director of Child Life Services at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
When the patients awake, the gifts are waiting for them at their bedside—including those in the neonatal units all the way to those of adolescents and teens.
In addition to the Santa visit and gifts, the units are decked with holiday spirit, and volunteers help bring caroling, crafts, events and parties to the floors. If any gifts are left over, they are saved for celebratory occasions like birthdays and off-treatment parties.
“There is always a need for donations,” Brown said. “If they have to be here, we’re going to make the experience as positive as we can—all year long.”