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Saint Joseph's Hospital Staffers Put a Twinkle in the Eyes of Kids

January 21, 2009
St. Joseph's Hospital staffers put a twinkle in the eyes of kids By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News (Contact) Published December 10, 2008 at 1:48 p.m. Updated December 10, 2008 at 11:53 p.m. Photo by Javier Manzano / The Rocky Javier Manzano / The Rocky Employees at Exempla St. Joseph Hospital adopted the students of Garden Place Academy elementary school. More than 300 students each received an early holiday gift and a goody bag. Tony Medina Damari Green Mario Colunga Janet Mariscal More Local NewsMan who died after standoff a Fort Carson soldier Body of third man found at Wray crash site Body of third man found at plane crash site More stories » If you think Santa Claus is still at the North Pole overeating so he can fit into his big red suit, you're wrong. Santa came to Exempla St. Joseph Hospital on Wednesday. He came in school buses from Garden Place Academy, a Denver public school where 95 percent of its roughly 300 students get free or reduced-price lunches because their parents don't make a lot of money. Many of these children are from homes where Spanish is the dominant language. Santa's giving spirit was evident in the eyes of 9-year-old Janet Mariscal, whose smile infected everyone around her. Happily, she held up a brand new, black Hannah Montana shirt and pair of jeans. And Santa's spirit was also present in the words of the hospital's registration supervisor, David Sandoval, 31, who attended Garden Place in the early 1980s. It gave the Broomfield resident great pride to be able to give back to the community where he was raised and where family members still live. "It's really touching. You know where (the students) come from and the kinds of challenges they have." It's the second year hospital staff have "adopted" a school. Organizer Kristi Davis, who came up with the idea based on a new shoe drive at another job, was thrilled so many employees participated in such tough economic times. The roughly 350 names (including preschoolers) were snapped up within two days. She was stunned to see the most generous donations come from the hospital's lowest paid employees - the cleaning crew and those who prepare food. The young students wondered how anyone knew what they wanted. The answer was easy: Santa told the hospital workers all about their favorite colors and characters. The students stormed up a center stairway, walking faster than a physician en route to the ER. They were given black bookbags with St. Joseph's logo on them. On the count of "three," they could look inside. For some, the wait was excruciating. On "three," the only sound was an awe-tinged "Whoa!" Several students put on their new duds over their clothes. They also received snack bags and small stuffed puppies attached to containers of candy canes. To get enough of these, hospital staff scoured every Walgreens within the metro area. Gifts and children's Christmas plans * Damari Green, 6, received a girlie purple top with a shiny bow on it and a jean skirt. "It's pretty." What will she do for Christmas? "Go caroling with my mom." * Tony Medina, 7, received a baggy red T-shirt with an abstract design on the front and blue jeans. "I was expecting the same kind of thing." What will he do for Christmas? "Have a snowball fight when I go outside." * Mario Colunga, 9, got a red Transformers T-shirt and pants. "It's what I was expecting - I was getting excited, though." What will he do for Christmas? "I might go to my grandma's and get stuff for Christmas." * Janet Mariscal, 9, got a black Hannah Montana shirt and jeans with fancy stitching on the back pockets. What will she do for Christmas? "Go to my aunt's house and do fun activities and Christmas games."