Rocky Vista University finds cool way to give gifts to children in hospital

Four-year-old Saylor Murray opens a gift from Santa at the pediatric unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Dec. 12, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Rocky Vista University decided to give back to the community this holiday season by presenting personalized gifts to children in need.

The university planned two events in St. George and Ivins last week, delivering the “Magic of Christmas” to children staying at the hospital and shoes to local school children.

Delivering the ‘Magic of Christmas’ to the pediatric unit

Santa made a surprise early visit to the children in the pediatric unit of Dixie Regional Medical Center last week, bringing with him gifts, elves and some Christmas spirit.

The Rocky Vista pediatric club teamed up with the hospital to bring the Magic of Christmas to patients in the pediatric unit Dec. 12. The first team started the event by dressing like elves and visiting each patient to ask them what they want for Christmas.

The elves, who were just as excited as the kids, helped each child fill out a special wish list to Santa, explaining that Santa had lost a few lists this year and needed them to write them again.

“We just wanted to make it seem really magical,” Valentina Bonnefil, who played the part of an elf, said.

Santa and his elves from Rocky Vista University deliver gifts to children at the pediatric unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Dec. 12, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

The team of elves then sent the Christmas lists to a second team that was waiting at Target, who purchased the gifts and brought them back to the hospital to be wrapped.

The presents were stuffed into a bag, and Santa and the elves delivered the gifts to each of the six patients individually.

The pediatric club planned the event to bring joy to kids who were sick around Christmas, hoping to lift their spirits and help them feel better.

“One of the tenants for osteopathic medicine is that the patient is a unit of the mind body and spirit,” Paolyne Meza, president of the club said. “We know that there’s a big component of healing when you look at the spirit, so we thought for the holidays we wanted to bring that Christmas spirit so that the kids here can heal.”

When children have to stay in the hospital they begin to act like patients and not like themselves, Dixie Regional Child Life Specialist Michael Robertson said. As a result, 80 to 90 percent of children who enter health care leave with short- or long-term trauma.

Sharleena Salinas, 14, opens a gift from Santa at the pediatric unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Dec. 12, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

As a child life specialist, Robertson’s job is to keep children acting like kids, not patients, to help prevent future issues.

Part of that effort includes racing in the halls, going for wagon rides and celebrating birthdays and holidays. Keeping kids acting like kids is what helps them cope with their situation, Robertson said.

Four-year-old Saylor Murray was especially excited to see Santa after telling her mom that she didn’t think he knew she was in the hospital. When she learned he was coming, she paced up and down the hall outside her room, waiting for him to arrive.

“This is such a great act of service. I think to be a kid and be in the hospital at Christmas time is just really hard, any time of the year but especially at Christmas, and to bring joy to them and make their day a little bit better … definitely is something that inspires them and helps them feel that they are special,” Lauren Murray, Saylor’s mom, said.

‘Footsteps for Angels’ providing shoes for kids in need

The Rocky Vista holiday employee appreciation committee, which was looking for ways to give back to the community this Christmas, was made aware of a need at Red Mountain Elementary School, a Title I school in Ivins. Many of the children at the school were in need of new shoes, some even having to duct tape the ones they had together.

Karver McGraw, 4, holds his new pair of shoes from Rocky Vista University at Red Mountain Elementary School, Ivins, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

With the school being located right across the street, committee members saw it as an opportunity to fulfill a need and build a relationship with the school and its students. And thus was born “Footsteps for Angels.”

“We felt like helping children to have something as essential as shoes was really symbolic,” administrative assistant Merilynn Lloyd said. “We’re hoping that us giving them something so essential like this is kind of a message that we would like to guide them in their footsteps.”

The committee made an angel tree for their school with tags listing the gender of the child and their shoe size. Faculty, staff and students took the tags and purchased a pair of shoes for each child, 113 in all.

Staff members from Rocky Vista delivered the shoes to the children Dec. 14. Each student was called by name to receive their new shoes. Some of the student’s older or younger siblings who don’t attend the school received shoes as well.

“It’s such an amazing program for families who could use a little help this time of year. I appreciate that it’s a little extra help,” said parent Diamond McGraw. “Whatever money would have gone towards shoes can now go towards presents and we appreciate it.”

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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