Children brighten hospital spirits

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Two Harbors resident Angela Waldron was feeling a little low on holiday spirit while staying in the hospital on bedrest on Dec. 20. Her high risk pregnancy meant she would have to stay at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center through the holidays.

“We decorated a tree as a family, but it’s so far away and we’re not going to be able to put presents under it since we’re going to have Christmas here in my room,” Waldron said.

But Waldron got a jolt of holiday spirit when two elementary students visited her room with a small, but well decorated artificial Christmas tree.

“Wow, thank you so much, this is so special. Thank you for making a tree for me,” Waldron said as she hugged the younger girl, Cora Stevenson, 5, a kindergartener.

Eighteen students from Lester Park Elementary School visited patients at St. Mary’s and St. Luke’s hospitals to deliver 40 Christmas trees and other gifts as part of the school’s 14th annual Giving Tree service learning project. The project is spearheaded by kindergarten teacher Sue Baker. It started as a family project in 2002, inspired by Baker’s then 9-year-old son Robbie. Baker brought the idea to the school as a service learning project.

“Kids don’t just ask their parents for money, they do chores at home and then instead of keeping that money for themselves, the bring it in so we can purchase a tree,” Baker said.

The total funds raised this year reached $1,300. Students also contribute all the handmade ornaments used to decorate the trees. Each class does a different craft project to add to the tree.

Cora’s class made reindeers out of popsicle sticks.

“We put red pom-poms on them, like [Rudolph],” Cora said.

Once the trees are assembled, teachers at Lester Park select one student from each class to make the trip to the hospital to give out the trees.

“I wish I could bring all of them because they all work so hard and you should see them when they come in with their money. They’re just so excited,” Baker said. “And it’s nice, especially this time of year when it’s all about me, me, me. It’s not right now.”

Waldron said the gift will also make her three children feel better about her staying in the hospital.

“They were very worried about mom not being able to have a tree,” Waldron said.

Some patients who weren’t in the hospital for as long of a stay received trees as well. The Orest family from Grand Marais were staying for another day or two after mother Andrea gave birth to her newborn son Rowan. Yusef Orest, the father, plans to put the tree in Rowan’s room.

“I thought that was a really good show of Christmas spirit during this time of year where if you’re away from home, it brings a little extra joy. We’ll definitely remember this,” Yusef said.