"Christmas, my child, is love in action." Dale Evans
Last November Olivia, our then 14 year old, approached John and I and said,
" For Christmas I want ALL the money you would spend on me to go to sick kids in the hospital. I mean, there are parents and kids who have nothing and I have everything. Please?!"
After John and I picked our jaws off the floor and made her wait a day to make SURE she really wanted to do this. I made a phone call.
Stephanie is the Child-life Specialist at Kaiser Hospital Sunset. She helps both parents and children cope when they are in the hospital. She has helped us numerous times while Yverline, our other daughter ( story here ) was hospitalized. She told us they were making a FREE to the parents Christmas store at the hospital.
Toys from 2009 Christmas Shop:
We knew from past experiences with Yverline in the hospital at Christmas time that going Christmas shopping for your sick child and other children just isn't a top priority. The result is parents and kids are alone and without presents on Christmas morning.
Stephanie and her co-workers set up a a store and wrapping station. Parents come into a special room in the hospital that is FILLED with toys and *shop* for their children. They can then choose to either give the presents to their children themselves or have a live Santa delver them on Christmas morning.
Having a sick child in the hospital at anytime makes you feel powerless, depressed, exhausted and bored. We know this from experience. The Christmas store provides parents a dignified way to shop without having to leave their sick child alone in the hospital and gives them much needed control, even if it is just in the area of choosing a gift. Besides being a fun distraction, it preserves an important cultural tradition. It also helps parents feel a little less guilty about money that may need to be spent on hospital bills rather than Christmas gifts.
I had Olivia and Stephanie work out the details and they came up with a plan.
Stephanie asked Olivia if she would be in charge of the teen section of the store. Knowing what teens want for Christmas was hard and usually the donations that came in for the Christmas store focused on younger kids.
Teen girls section Shop 2009 collected by Olivia:
So off to the mall Olivia and her friend Rachel went. Bath and Body Works in the Galleria Mall found out what Olivia was doing and helped her by giving her discounts, which made her money go further. Then their employees got involved and made a donation box and collected items for both boy and girl teens. They even donated shopping bags! NICE!!
Bags donated by Bath and Body Works:
Only once throughout this process did Olivia waiver. As we walked through the mall she turned to me and said " Holding all this money and shopping is making me feel tempted to want to buy stuff for me. You hold it Mom and let's hurry up and finish" I took the cash and we finished the last of the Christmas shopping as fast as we could.
Rachel and Olivia with toys from 2009 Shop:
We then drove all the donations up to the hospital on the 23rd to set up the Free Store. Olivia , Rachel and the staff at Kaiser began organizing the gifts by age and sex to make shopping for the parents easier.
Olivia and Jessica the Social Worker 2009:
Shopping for the parents was private and we didn't stay for the the store's opening. Olivia was so happy to have participated and the only people that she told were her brothers and a few close friends.
Olivia, Stephanie and Rachel after setting up the Christmas shop 2009:
In fact she inspired her brothers to donate their Christmas gifts as well.
James gave his money to help buy an ambulance in Haiti to transport pregnant women to the hospital through our friends at Heartline's Ministries (see here) It was also used to help transport earthquake victims to the hospital they set up to meet the overwhelming need post-earthquake.
Peter gave his Christmas gift money to a family in the Dominican Republic whose daughter has a heart condition.(see here)
On Christmas morning we kept the tradition of stockings, this was the one small concession to gift giving. They contained the usual ornaments for each child and candy. We had our "Happy Birthday Jesus Coffee Cake" and watched little Yverline open her gifts , after all she was only nine and this was her second Christmas with us since she came home from Haiti. That night we all went to the movies.
Yverline and Olivia Christmas morning 2009:
It was one of the most relaxing and worship-filled Christmases we have ever spent as a family.
James, Yverline, Olivia and Peter Christmas morning 2009:
This year Olivia approached her youth leaders Kelly and Rocky at our Church, Kings Harbor, and asked if they and the students wanted to help provide some of the gifts to this year's store. The response was overwhelming as over 75 gifts were collected.
A small portion of the toys collected by the youth of Kings Harbor Church 2010:
Seventy-Five teenagers and two adult brothers giving of themselves as a response to what one girl started the year before. "A Little Child shall Lead Them." Isaiah 11:6