'Santa's Workshop' brings the Christmas spirit to patients at Erlanger
Children who have to spend the holidays in the hospital will get a little holiday magic next week. 'Santa's Workshop' is setting up shop to take the stress off families and to make sure every child has a gift under the tree.
The special day relies on community support, but right now, they are low on donations.
They've been sick, hurt and been through a lot more than most adults can even fathom yet, it's not hard to find a smile on the 5th floor at Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
"On September 21st, my 9-year-old son, Isaac, was diagnosed with leukemia, and we've been treated here ever since," Mark Miller said.
For the last three months, the Miller family has spent their time with their son on the fifth floor in the Cancer and Blood Disorder Center. Serious things happen there, it's why Life Care specialists like Ashley Zani work with families during their stay.
"So we make the hospital less stressful and anxious for kids; we do that through education, distraction and play," Zani explained.
Life Care specialists throw birthday parties, celebrate holidays and do whatever it takes to bring some normalcy. For Christmas, they've invited Old St. Nick himself!
"Families who are stuck in the hospital on Christmas and Christmas Eve can come down and shop for gifts for their kids," Zani said.
Santa's Workshop is setting up shop, and families staying at the hospital can choose gifts for kids to open on Christmas morning.
"The tears down the families faces right when they walked in, and they're just like 'I don't know, I don't deserve this, we don't need this.' I'm like this is for you; these donations were given for children at the children's hospital," Zani said.
For parents like the Millers, it's this type of compassion that makes the difficult days a little easier.
"They've just really helped our family through this; you know, it's always encouraging. You can tell they really care about their patients and the families," Miller said.
Last year, Santa's Workshop brought Christmas cheer to 26 families. This year, they hope to serve more, but they need donations. Nonetheless, the support so far is overwhelming for the Millers because their son is not only receiving treatment but also growing his family.
"It just really feels like we have a family here, Isaac's already looking at different gifts he wants to give them for Christmas because he feels like they're a part of his family," he said.
It's what motivates Zani to make sure every holiday feels a little more like home.
"No one wants to be here on Christmas, so we may as well make it a little more special," she said.
You can drop off unwrapped toys at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger. Forms are available for tax purposes. Volunteers say they have stocking stuffers for families but need more toy donations. They say the most popular gifts are light up toys for toddlers, Lego's, dolls and gift cards for teenagers. Gifts are also distributed to all kids including siblings of patients.