Staying at a hospital might not be how kids want to spend the holidays, but for some, it's a reality. To make things a little merrier, people in the community hope to make patients stay a little brighter with miniature Christmas trees.

These small decorated trees add a little brightness during difficult times for children and their families.

For the last 20 years, Cameron Watkins has been a patient at Children's Hospital at Erlanger.

"I wasn't supposed to live past nine, so the treatment helps," Watkins said. 

Watkins has a terminal genetic disorder and spends five hours a week in an exam room.

"What I get, I do have to get weekly, there's not really a break you can take from it," he explained.

There's no break for his treatments and that includes the holidays, meaning he will spend it on the fifth floor of a hospital that he considers a second home.

Downstairs, a group of seniors are on their way up to bring some much needed holiday cheer. In each hand, a miniature Christmas tree, each made with love in hopes of bringing a smile to the patients.

"We thought this was the best way to do it. We put toys on here, where they could take them off and share them or whatever they want to do with them," said Carlene Miles, a resident at Morning Pointe of Chattanooga.

Residents at Morning Pointe of Chattanooga assisted living on Shallowford spent a couple of weeks decorating 30 personalized trees for patients. The residents pooled their money together, bought the trees, and some handmade ornaments.

Patients like Cameron have a large selection, this is the first year the community partnered with the hospital to bring this kind of holiday cheer.

"Even having it in the room with you can make it, just a little bit of an impact on you that can help make the day, just by the detail and all the care that went into these, you can tell they handmade a lot of these ornaments," Watkins said.

"It's a time of giving, it's a time of sharing, and it's a time of wanting to give other people love, and give a child a smile and always be there to help them wherever we can," Miles said.

For some, it's not about the gifts under the tree, it's the tree itself.

"It helps, it sort of distracts you from what's going on," Watkins said.

Erlanger is still accepting donations through Friday between 3 and 5 p.m. at either the Adult or Children's Hospital Valet parking areas at Erlanger's main hospital.

Instructions for trees are as follows:

  • Trees must be 3 feet tall or smaller
  • No live trees; they MUST be artificial
  • Pick a theme for a child or teenager, ornaments may be purchased or handmade
  • Toys, such as dolls or cars, may be wired onto trees
  • NO food items on trees
  • Securely tie or wire ornaments onto trees; no loose ornaments, please
  • Please be sure ornaments do not include glass, sharp objects or anything that could be a choking hazard
  • Lights are great, but battery-powered lights are best

For more information, contact Emilia Jones at (423) 778-7892 or email her at Erlanger.

The hospital also needs toy donations for their annual "Santa's workshop" on Christmas Eve patients receive gifts at no charge. You can bring by an unwrapped toy to the front desk at Erlanger's main building.