It’s crunch time at the North Pole. Santa is checking his “Naughty” and “Nice” lists twice. Mrs. Claus is keeping the elves on track. Rudolph and the other reindeer are searching Google Maps for the best route to fly across the world. A deadline is approaching!
A group of Gillette Children’s employees are in cahoots with Santa, helping him spread holiday cheer. Santa and Gillette want to make sure every child in our hospital experiences the joy of the season. That’s why a group of nurses, child life specialists, music therapists, therapeutic recreation specialists and volunteers are busy making the season bright.
Jamie Yuen, a Gillette certified child life specialist, organizes the gift-giving and says the team prepares for weeks. “It’s a really exciting time and we work with families to make sure their child would like to get a gift. We’re mindful that not all families celebrate Christmas. Our goal is to make sure each child experiences the magic of the season and feels special, whatever their cultural background.” Yuen says.
Between 20 and 30 patients spend the holiday season in the hospital. Yuen says over the years the team has helped make specific wishes come true. “I had a little girl who wanted a unicorn and another patient who wanted a special metallic marker so people could write on their cast. Our great team helped to fulfill those gift requests,” Yuen says.
When a child is in the hospital the whole family is affected. The Gillette crew makes sure siblings get presents and can join in the holiday fun. “One of the season’s highlights is Santa Carlucci,” Yuen explains. “He visits patients and their siblings and shows them his special reindeer antler—it’s Rudolph’s first antler!” Santa Carlucci invites children to reach inside the antler and take a bit of glittery “reindeer dust.” Yuen adds that many companies—like Manhattan Toy, American Girl Doll, Mattel and Land O’Lakes—are especially generous this time of year. “It’s wonderful to see the community join together and help our kids,” Yuen says.
The Gillette team understands that it’s difficult for kids and families to spend the holidays in the hospital. “This is a time for our staff to form even stronger bonds with our families,” Yuen says. “This is especially true for the nurses, who are often the ones giving medicine and shots. But during the holidays these nurses get to do fun things with patients. It really is a special time.”
(Photo: Santa Carlucci and Jamie Yuen bring some holiday cheer to Anthony as he recovers in the Gillette Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.)