Christmas Dreams | Early Christmas Treat for Kids with Cancer
For children at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Christmas came a couple of weeks early as the Christmas Dreams traveling experience welcomed the families of children who are battling life-threatening illnesses.
Christmas Dreams, a ministry of the Church @434 in Winter Springs, is the brainchild of LeeAnn Stayer, who oversees education and Horizon Ministries at the church.
“These families are living in a nightmare,” LeeAnn said. “We want to give them a dream come true.”
The enchantment takes place inside a semi-trailer that has been transformed to look like Mrs. Claus’s kitchen, a tinker room and Santa’s man cave. Children help Mrs. Claus decorate Christmas cookies in the kitchen and then move on to build a toy with one of Santa’s elves. Finally the children come face to face with the Man Himself where they read a story together and even get a chance to try on Santa’s coat, boots and hat.
Three-year-old Aidan Rawls, who has stage four neuroblastoma, had the time of his life hanging with the Clauses, said his dad, Clayton.
“It was wonderful seeing him smile,” he said of the experience.
Emily Onderick, the child life specialist at Florida Hospital, said the hospital has been very blessed by the church over the years and they were eager to host Christmas Dreams.
“We see [the children] at their lowest and then we get to see them so excited about meeting Santa,” she said. “We have had so much fun.”
Pastor Jeff Dixon was on-site to provide support and just generally chip in. Jeff said he’s been amazed at the commitment of the many volunteers who make the Christmas Dreams experience happen.
“After all these years in ministry, very few times I’ve been wowed,” Jeff said. “The church should be doing things that are fresh and different – this is that.”
Jeff, LeeAnn and their team of volunteers have been humbled by the privilege of offering these children and families a bright spot in the midst of their darkness. They are also thankful for the partnership of the Florida Baptist Convention who came alongside with financial support to turn LeeAnn’s dream into a reality.
LeeAnn and Jeff hope to be able to offer Christmas Dreams to other hospitals around the state in 2018.
To find out more about Christmas Dreams and how you can partner with them, check out their Facebook page – www.facebook.com/christmasdreams
By Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention, December 22, 2017