Sharing a room at North York General Hospital, Jamie Hamilton and Sarah Rohdy aren’t sure if they will be discharged in time to be home for Christmas.
But Christmas came to them Monday when some of Santa’s “elves”, including Toronto firefighters and Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau, delivered gifts to the pediatric floor.
“It’s really cool of them,” said 13-year-old Jamie, in hospital for an eating disorder and a problem with her heart rate. “It’s really nice. It’s nice of them to take time off to come.”
She and Sarah each got a $25 iTunes card. Jamie also received a rubber stamp set. Sarah wanted to wait till later to open her wrapped present but she was pleased to receive the gifts.
“It’s very nice,” she said.
Every year, firefighters deliver toys they have collected to young patients in hospitals in the city. The majority of the toys are given to social services to be distributed to clients in need. Firefighter Rick Berenz, who runs the firefighters’ toy drive, said about 500,000 toys a year are given to youngsters who might not otherwise receive a gift.
Firefighters are thrilled to participate in the toy drive, he said.
“You just hope you have made the day that much better and bring a little bit of joy in their lives, especially at this time of year,” said Berenz, who has been organizing the drive for 20 years. “A lot of us have kids.”
Firefighters will return to North York General on Christmas Day to hand out gifts to children on the big day. Hospital president Dr. Tim Rutledge said staff is delighted to see how happy young patients are when the firefighters visit.
“It’s always a joy to see the smiling faces of the kids at this time of year,” he said. “The firefighters come back on Christmas Day, which is remarkable. I’m so impressed with the commitment of the firefighters to bring joy at this time of year. And it’s consistent, it’s every year.”
The visits make being in hospital easier for young patients, Rutledge said.
“It’s always tough for kids to be in hospital. This time of year makes it even more tough,” he said. “This makes it a lighter burden a bit.”