Santa and Mrs. Claus made an early appearance at Children’s Hospital today, handing out bags of gifts to more than two dozen children attending the hospital’s Medical Day Treatment program. Santa brought more than gifts to the 28 children in the program, in an aptly titled “holiday hugs” event sponsored by Universal Lending. Although the Medical Day Treatment program was founded in cooperation with the Denver Public Schools to provide an educational placement alternative for children whose medical needs are too complicated to allow them to attend regular school, only smiling children could be found in the packed Mount Yale room on the second floor of the hospital off East Colfax Avenue in Aurora.
“This is the highlight of the year for the entire program,” said Arletta Swain-Cockrell, a pediatric nurse practitioner and the program manager for the Medical Day Treatment. “We all love and know all of these children. We work with them everyday. But to have all of these people come in from Universal Lending and put on this celebration it is overwhelming. It is phenomenal.”
She gave Peter Lansing, president of Universal Lending, a hug, and told him she would do her best not to cry.
This is the second year for Cassie Dickman to participate in the program. Asked her age, Cassie said that she will be “sweet 15″ in February.
“I just love it,” Cassie, who suffers from a white blood cell deficiency and Crohn’s Disease, said. “Last year, I opened one gift here and the rest on Christmas.”
Children and adolescents in the program are dealing with a wide-range of problems including respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, diabetes, seizures, cancer, and those recovering from transplants. Some have psychiatrist disorders or have difficulties coping with their medical illness.
“For some of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have,” said Mary Wells, who acts as the executive director for Universal Lending Foundation. The gift requests tend to be simple. “A lot of them ask for clothes,” Wells said. “One boy said he wanted a membership to the Denver Art Museum.”
It’s a family affair
In addition to the children, Universal Lending employees raised money and bought gifts for 44 of their siblings. They also gave parents and guardians gift certificates to places like King Soopers and Wal-Mart. They did such things as hold bake sales and car washes to raise money. Last week, 22 “Designer Elves” from Universal Lending spent almost three hours wrapping presents. They had so many gifts that the Universal Lending Foundation’s trailer was used to haul the bags to the hospital.
“It’s really the employees at Universal Lending, not me,” Wells said. “This is truly a company wide program. I would say everyone participates.”
This was either the 10th or the 13th consecutive year of Universal Lending sponsoring the event. “It’s been a long time,” Lansing said.
Such a long time, that people are no longer sure how one of the largest privately owned mortgage banking companies in the Denver area became involved. Maybe the employees decided that Children’s Hospital was a worthy institution, and the hospital told them that the children in the Medical Day Treatment program could use some holiday cheer. Maybe a Universal Lending employee had a child who had been helped by the hospital and wanted to give something back.
“Honestly, I don’t remember,” Lansing said. “I know at one point I kind of floated a balloon that maybe we should turn this over to someone else and focus on our Adopt-A-Home program. I faced the wrath of all of my employees. No way did they want to give this up.”
Lansing now big fan of Children’s
Lansing admits he knew nothing about Children’s Hospital before he and Universal Lending became involved with this program, but now he couldn’t be a bigger fan.
“Thankfully, none of my children ever had to come here,” Lansing said. “Now, I know nothing about health care, and what is considered to be good health care. But this is clearly a wonderful hospital and provides wonderful care. I think we are so lucky to have this great hospital and I think it is great that we can help it.”
Right back at you, said a Children’s Hospital spokeswoman.
“It is really such a special event. We are so lucky to have Universal Lending as such a great sponsor.”
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