Millions of children around the world will wake up Christmas morning and run to a lighted tree laden with toys and gifts that they will treasure for months to come.
But that heartwarming ritual is missed by families of children in UAB Hospital awaiting a transplant, fighting cancer or seeking treatment for some other disease.
For almost three decades, the Hospital Maintenance Department has given these children a Christmas to remember with a party with Santa and toys.
“We look forward to hosting this event for the children and their families here in the hospital every year. It’s always special to us, and we enjoy doing what we can to help give the children a good Christmas,” says Doug Williams, an electrician who is directing the department’s fundraising efforts for the seventh year.
But this year’s donations are lagging, likely due to the nation’s economy.
“We’ve had vendors tell us they can’t help us out this year,” Williams says. “Their business is slow because of the economy, and it’s greatly affected the amount we’ve been able to raise.”
Hospital Maintenance hopes to find more support from Santa’s elves among UAB employees and friends by Dec. 5 to help ensure this Christmas is extra special for the children and their families who will spend it in the hospital.
The group also is hosting doughnut sales in an effort to raise money this year — something Williams says it’s never had to do in the past. “We’re really, really short and so far behind where we need to be that we’ve even talked about doing a motorcycle ride at some point help raise additional funds,” Williams says.
Maintenance staff will shop for gifts for the children Dec. 9, and the Christmas Toy Fund celebration will begin at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 11, on the second floor of the North Pavilion Atrium. All employees and students are invited to attend.
Gifts keep giving
The Child Life Program, which cares for hundreds of children at UAB every year, helps reduce the stress experienced by children and families and helps them cope with potentially traumatic situations. This toy drive helps fills the toy chest in the playroom on 5 North.
Jane Love, director of Child Life, says the playroom is a magical place for children and their parents.
“Our playrooms have a calming effect on anxious children,” Love says. “Every day we see children — many who come in for the first time — who are afraid of the hospital and the medical staff. Once they walk into the playroom this strange place becomes a friendly one, with a dollhouse and games and wagons and cars to ride in.
“This would not be possible without the toy drive that our Maintenance Department does year after year,” she says. “This fund makes it possible for us to purchase these toys and all of the arts and crafts, crayons and coloring books and movies.”
Love says families often thank her for this bright spot during a frightening time in their lives.
“For some of our parents important and lasting memories of their children are made in this room,” Love says. “Child Life and the 5 North Staff are thankful for the Maintenance Department and the UAB family who support this endeavor.”
If you would like to make a donation to aid in the purchase of toys and supplies for the program, please send a check payable to the UAB Maintenance Pediatric Toy Fund, 619 19th St. South, Room S036, Birmingham AL 35294.