Stories of Giving: Holiday Heroes at Children’s

No child would choose to be in the hospital during the holidays. Yet that’s where the sickest kids and their families often spend the holidays. At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we work hard to give them a few moments when illness takes a backseat to the holiday spirit.

That isn’t always easy, since surgeries and treatments must go on. But there’s nothing more rewarding than the smiles we see when a Christmas elf, a sudden snowfall or a therapy dog shows up to bring cheer to a sick child. These kids’ spirits shine through and light up the room.

Support from people like you is what makes these miracles happen. Read about a few of our holiday cheer ambassadors, and then take the next step—a generous donation to Children’s.

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Brenda the Elf Brings Joy—and Receives it in Return

In her red and green tights and pointy hat, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta volunteer Brenda Winsberg makes an excellent Christmas elf. You can see her success in the faces of our young patients—for a while they can leave their worries behind and just be laughing, fun-loving kids.

Brenda also brings smiles to the faces of these kids’ families as well as our staff and other volunteers. And she doesn’t limit her visits to the holidays—she’s on the job every Monday. She wears a small pin given to her by a young patient’s mother that simply reads “hug,” and folks on our third floor are happy to put that message into action.

The kids at Children’s get a few moments of fun with Brenda the elf, and she is richly rewarded. “I wish more people could experience the joy I experience by giving back,” she says. “Everyone has a gift to share.

Puppy Pioneer: Casper

For 3-year-old Emmy, visits from our very first therapy dog Casper made the difference between a holiday in the hospital and a holiday at home with her family. Emmy needed to walk before she could be discharged after surgery, but fear of pain kept her from trying.

That is, until Casper worked his magic. She held his leash as she took a few slow steps and then took off down the hall with Casper by her side. “I don’t believe Emmy would have been able to walk that day without Casper,” says Emmy’s mom.


This year, our beloved Canines For Kids puppy pioneer Casper is hanging up his vest. He and his handler, Lisa, are retiring after nine years of faithful service and it’s time for these two to turn in their employee badges and get some much-deserved R&R. 

Fortunately, Casper leaves behind a whole crew of two- and four-legged friends who will carry on his incredible legacy. We invite you to join them and carry on Casper's legacy.

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The Wisdom of Children

Jerry Hatcher, Jr., has a holiday ritual that sets him apart from most kids his age. He gets up early, goes to the hospital and gives money to strangers.

Except they’re not really strangers.

Jerry Jr. feels like he knows these families of sick children, since he almost lost his own younger brother to illness a few years ago. To cheer these folks up he gets a ride to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with his parents, goes to the cafeteria and hides behind the cash register. Each time a patient’s family member reaches for a wallet he jumps up to wish them Merry Christmas—and hand them some cash.

Jerry Jr. has figured out something it often takes decades to learn— it feels great to give, especially for a good cause. He earns and saves all year for this moment, and he’s rewarded with hugs and happy tears from the surprised families.

Kids at Children’s Get their own Personal Snowfall

Snow is a rare event in Georgia, and many kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have never experienced the delight of watching a snowflake melt in their hand.

That didn’t seem right to us, so we went on a secret mission to create a personal snowfall—and a little magic—for our young patients and their families. On a 57-degree day we made it snow on our three hospital campuses.

This snow came from a machine, but the smiles were real. As the flakes drifted through the air, dozens of sick and injured kids—as well as many of their parents and our staff—turned their faces up to the snowflakes. Some of the children were tethered to IV poles and wearing surgical masks, but they were able—for a moment—to trade being patients for just being kids.

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Mallory Honors the Donor who Saved her Life

Mallory Kate’s family decorates not one but two Christmas trees. The extra one is for the person who donated the heart that saved Mallory’s life.

When Mallory was just a few weeks old she developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta used a process called ECMO to help her heart heal, and after 10 days she slowly improved. She was able to go home, but her heart was still not pumping enough blood.

Mallory and her family began making frequent trips to Sibley Heart Center, where doctors monitored her progress. But after nearly two years, it was clear she needed a new heart. Her heart transplant surgery went well, and she was ready to go home in less than a week.

That was three years ago, and Mallory is now a healthy 5-year-old. Among the Christmas ornaments on her “special tree” are a heart with the date of her transplant and an angel holding a heart. This year she’ll add another special ornament.

Be a Holiday Hero

The doctors and other committed caregivers at Children’s work hard every day to give our young patients the healthiest childhoods possible. This time of year, we want to give them more. These kids have learned that many things in life are uncertain, but with your help we can show them that one thing remains constant—the spirit of the holidays. Your generous donation is key to making that happen, and it works both ways—your own holiday season is likely to have a little added joy.

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