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  • Santa delivers a toy to 16-month-old Ashtyn, who spent part of Christmas Eve in the Emergency Department at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, Wash.

    Santa delivers a toy to 16-month-old Ashtyn, who spent part of Christmas Eve in the Emergency Department at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, Wash.

    Christmas spirit shines bright at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital

    by Cole Cosgrove

    It’s not quite the same as being home for the holidays, but Santa Claus still knows how to find 32 young patients and their families who will wake up Christmas morning at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. 

    “We understand that the kids and their families didn’t plan to be here, so our goal is to try to normalize being in the hospital as much as possible,” said Kristen Bishop, a Child Life Specialist who worked Christmas Eve at Mary Bridge. “If that means delivering presents to their bedside on Christmas morning, then we do our best to make that happen, because that’s what would happen at home.”

    For kids in the hospital, the month leading up to Christmas has included as many of those normal winter holiday activities as possible.

    In early December, the children got their pictures taken with Santa Claus, just the same as if they were able to go out to a shopping mall.

    Then during the Jim Mora Count On Me Family Foundation’s special Holiday Shop, children who couldn't leave the hospital to go shopping were able to pick out presents for their parents and siblings.

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    In the past two weeks, young patients have decorated stockings to hang on their hospital room doors, and also had some fun making candy-covered gingerbread houses.

    Last week, thanks to the Cisco Systems video chat equipment normally used for telemedicine visits between doctors and patients, Santa Claus was able to greet young patients in their hospital beds. In a personalized visit with each child, Santa talked about their favorite toys, did magic tricks, sang Christmas carols and encouraged them to feel better.

    "Don't worry about me, I'll be able to find you wherever you are on Christmas," Santa told the kids.

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    On Dec. 24, Santa himself was joined by “Santa Silvia” Tapia and Mike Combs, who had collected toys through Toys For Tots and at the Varsity Grill in Tacoma. They pulled wagons full of toys and made deliveries throughout the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Emergency Department and the outpatient Health Center.

    “I love to put a little smile on their little faces,” said Santa Silvia, in her 13th year collecting toys for kids in the hospital.

    Gifts have already been wrapped and are ready to be delivered to any children who might be admitted to the hospital overnight. 

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    In the days before Christmas, a special Santa’s Workshop allowed parents to help Santa by picking out two toys and some stocking stuffers for each young patient and siblings.

    “It’s very empowering to see people get some joy in their life when they’re going through transitions,” said John Babbo, who has volunteered the past eight years at Santa’s Workshop.

    Community members generously donated all the high-quality gifts, which included new bicycles of all sizes and colors, LEGOs, dolls, pirate ships, a wooden rocking horse, and Lincoln Logs, to name a few.

    “It’s humbling to see how many people have donated, especially in this economy,” said one mother whose son was recently diagnosed with leukemia. “People are so generous.”

    On Christmas morning, Santa will make the rounds, doing his best to make sure this Christmas is as normal as possible, even for those inside a children’s hospital.

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    Posted on Dec 24, 2012 in Kids' Health