By BARRY GOODRICH
The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for patients and their families who are required to spend time at area children’s hospitals. When being home for the holidays is not an option, a welcoming atmosphere can make all the difference.
One of the most unique holiday traditions takes place each Christmas Eve at Akron Children’s Hospital when Santa arrives by AirBear, the hospital’s pediatric transport helicopter. After landing at the hospital, Santa proceeds through the hospital to pass out gifts to all the children. Known as The Flight Before Christmas, the event is highly anticipated by children, families and staff alike.
Every year, more than 200 decorated trees, 85,000 strings of lights and other holiday creations are displayed at the John S. Knight Center to benefit Akron Children’s. Since its beginning in 1982, the Holiday Tree Festival has raised more than $6 million for the hospital’s patient care, education and research.
On Dec. 6, patients will gather in the hospital’s Atrium Lobby for the lighting of the hospital’s Children’s Tree of Lights. A bambino at the top of the tree represents all children and the blue and white lights signify celebration, honor and remembrance of loved ones.
Donations are being accepted for Akron Children’s through its Amazon Wish List. To drop off already purchased gifts, visit akronchildrens.org/pages/giving-patient-wish-lists or call 330-543-8424. Deadline for all drop-off donations is Dec. 19.
At Cleveland Clinic ‘s Children’s Hospital, jolly old St. Nick will pay a visit Dec. 23, riding on a fire truck with his elves to deliver presents. Each patient will receive a gift and an individual visit from Santa.
“Many of the patients at Cleveland Clinic Children’s want to spend the holidays at home and Santa’s annual visit to the hospital helps bring some holiday cheer directly to them,” said hospital spokesperson Shannon Nealon.
Santa’s Hide A Way Hollow, a non-profit founded in 1981, works with seriously and terminally ill children and their families to provide comfort and support throughout the final stages of a child’s illness. Santa’s Hide A Way Hollow has been visiting Cleveland Clinic Children’s for more than 20 years.
The hospital is also on Amazon with all items purchased going directly to its pediatric patients’ play spaces, waiting rooms, bedsides and for special occasions and accomplishments. Items on the list have been specifically selected for Cleveland Clinic hospitals and clinics based on the needs of the patient population (clevelandclinicchildrens.org/amazonwishlist). To make monetary donations, visit clevelandclinicchildrens.org/supportchildlife.
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital will hold its ninth annual Donation Drop-Off Day (2101 Adelbert Rd.) from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. Visitors are encouraged to stop in for some holiday cheer, take photos and meet the Rainbow Babies & Children’s staff and volunteers.
Items needed most include small and medium-sized stuffed animals, Fisher Price medical kits, Lego kits, Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars, PlayDoh modeling dough, small dolls, nail polish, batteries, board books, Lip Smackers lip balm, portable DVD and CD players, Xbox One, Uno cards, coloring books and crayons.
Gift cards are also welcome, including cards from Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Visa.
The most requested infant and toddler items include rattles, crib soothers, Fisher Price Little People, Nurture Smart crib mobiles and 4moms bouncy seats and highchairs. For more information, visit www.uhhospitals.org/rainbow.