CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – A season that is meant to be merry and bright can certainly seem dark when dealing with a health issue that means a hospital stay over Christmas.
It’s something Tom Stover of Chambersburg knows first-hand.
On December 19, 2009, he suffered a heart attack while shoveling snow, and was admitted to Chambersburg Hospital. After a heart cauterization and getting two stents implanted, Stover was discharged two days before Christmas.
“It made me think about children that have to spend their Christmas in the hospital, and what I could possible do to make their Christmas brighter,” Stover said.
After reflecting on the experience, Stover called upon some of his famous friends, better known as Santa and Mrs. Claus to help him begin a new tradition at Chambersburg Hospital.
The group, including Stover’s grandson Skylar, prepares gifts and goodie bags to hand deliver to pediatric patients and for the nurse’s stations. Windy Knoll Farm Market and Giant on Wayne Avenue both donate candy and treats, and the group also selects and wraps toys for the children.
This year, the annual tradition marked an important milestone for baby Rebecca Shipp, who may otherwise have missed out on meeting Santa for her very first Christmas.
The six-month-old, although not feeling her best, couldn’t help but smile in wonder as Santa held her. Her tiny fingers ripped through the colorful wrapping paper as she opened a baby doll. As she hugged and smiled at the toy, her mother was also moved, thrilled her daughter could experience some joy on Christmas Eve.
“It is so rewarding to see the children's eyes light up when Santa and Mrs. Claus enter their rooms, give them a gift and goodies and simply visit for a while,” Stover said. “If there is anyone that doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, they should be with us during our visit. It is an experience that would move them and change their minds.”