Firefighters play Santa and bring cheer to sick children

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Chicago firefighters helped to spread holiday cheer to sick children on Wednesday.

There's a flurry of activity on the main floor at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital as members of the Chicago Fire Department's 12th Battalion gathered hundreds of gifts for the children who can't go home this holiday season.

"We don't bring ten toys, we bring a thousand toys because we stockpile them for the whole year," said firefighter Rich Pinkney.

This is the fifteenth year that firefighters from the 12th Battalion, Second District, have been collecting and distributing gifts to children at local hospitals for the holidays.

In this instance, the act of giving is a gift itself, but none are more uplifted by the gesture than the families who benefit from the generosity of others.

Elisabet Rodriguez knows her daughter Elani - born several weeks premature - is too young to enjoy the gifts she's been given, but that doesn't lessen the joy she feels knowing somebody cares that this Christmas isn't like the others.

"My kids, my family, they said they didn't really want anything for Christmas besides Elani under the Christmas tree," said Rodriguez.

Nina Royston, a 15-year-old freshman at Lane Tech, is going home today after suffering an allergic reaction to something she ate just a day earlier. But what a special surprise to receive a gift and all this attention.

"This is wild! I had no idea this was going to happen. I don't mind at all, it's pretty cool," said Royston.

The doctors and nurses here know how much the gifts are appreciated and how they serve as a reminder everyone should be given the opportunity to enjoy this special time of year.

"They feel like they're left out of some of the celebration because they're not feeling well enough to participate," said Dr. Robert Zadylak, Chief Medical Officer at Advocate Illinois Masonic.

Advocate Illinois Masonic is the first of four hospitals to get deliveries this holiday season. Children will be receiving gifts over the next couple of days at Lurie and Comer Children's Hospitals and Rush University Medical Center.
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