Amita, Meijer team to bring presents to hospitalized children
A truly big heart Amita, Meijer team up with the Grinch and Santa to bring presents to hospitalized children
In the world of Dr. Seuss, it was the Grinch who stole Christmas. But at Amita Health Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates, the tables were turned.
Sure enough, it was the Grinch who brought Christmas to young patients and their families earlier this month in the hospital's pediatric unit.
"This is the best day ever," said Arianna Mercado, 7, of Bensenville, while her mother, Neena, and sister, Julianna, watched it unfold.
Another 6-year old patient from Elgin, Elias Brockway, agreed.
"He's going to be talking about this for a long time," said his mother, Kristie Brockway.
For the fourth year, hospital officials partnered with the Meijer store in Elgin to pull off the caper. Here's how it went down: The Grinch -- who this year added a wow factor -- went from room to room encouraging young patients to FaceTime with Santa and tell him what they wanted for the holiday.
Unbeknown to the children, Santa's helpers were tuned in to the exchange and they dashed off to pick up the presents, which all were donated by Meijer.
Once they returned to the hospital, the elves worked feverishly to wrap the gifts. Promptly after lunch, as the young patients were settling into their beds for a rest, who should appear, but Santa himself, accompanied by Mrs. Claus, the Grinch and even some reindeer dogs -- also known as the dogs from the hospital's pet therapy program -- to distribute their gifts.
One mother, Amalia Facio of Carpentersville, said she was "blown away by the generosity" after watching her 7-year old son, Emanuel, take it all in.
"When he Facetimed with Santa he thought he wouldn't be back until Christmas," she said. "And then there he was. Emanuel received gifts on his wish list, and he even asked Santa for a gift for me -- and Santa delivered."
Katie Hammerberg, coordinator of Child Life Services conceived the idea and she continues to oversee all of its many details. It comes with the job, she says. All year long, the team works to ease children's hospital stays.
Some of their regular amenities include making DVD players and mobile laptops, as well as video game systems accessible. They also provide bedside magic, pet therapy, arts and crafts projects, and TV Bingo. And then they plan special events.
"Every year, we try to infuse a wow factor to make the day magical," Hammerberg says, "and memorable, as oftentimes, hospital memories are not always pleasant.
"Bringing in the Grinch this year was whimsical and timely," she added, "in addition to having our pet therapy dogs act as Santa's reindeer. They offered a warm, fuzzy feeling to the day."
In all, Santa and the Grinch made the holidays a little brighter for 16 patients who were on the unit that day earlier this month. They came from Carpentersville to Schaumburg and Bensenville, to name just a few of the wide range of communities the hospital serves.
"This yearly event truly is a team effort," Hammerberg said. "The Child Life team relies on the assistance of other individuals, departments and volunteers to preserve the magic of Christmas on this special day."