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“They saved Colton when he was four weeks old… I feel like I owe them a lot.”
Five years ago, Jessica White and her husband were in a race against time as they hurried into Nemours Children’s Hospital with their four-week-old son, Colton. The baby had grown lethargic, and Jessica noticed his skin gradually taking on a blue hue. She became alarmed after initially suspecting her son might just be dehydrated because he wouldn’t eat.
“When we walked into the ER they immediately took him from me,” she said. “A couple of nurses listened to his heart and they called a doctor over and he listened. They ended up admitting him. His heart rate was 290 and it should be around 120.”
Afterwards, they received the diagnosis that their son was suffering from an irregular heartbeat condition known as supraventricular tachycardia. That led to a week-long hospitalization.
“The care we received in that hospital, as scared as I was that I was going to lose my baby, they were amazing, and they took care of me and my husband and obviously Colton,” she said. “Every single person was amazing, from the cardiac doctors that treated Colton, to the people that cleaned his room. Every single person acted like we were the most important people in the world to them.”
Colton recovered from his ailment and in the years since, the family has worked to foster a spirit of giving back that has become a meaningful tradition for them. They make it a point to supply lunches to both nurses and doctors, and generously donate snacks such as granola bars and pretzels for occasions like Nurses Week or the holidays.
This year, Colton, now 5, was eager to try something new, inspired by a TikTok video.
“My son and I were watching TikTok and he saw another family doing a toy drive for another hospital and he asked if we could do it,” she explained. “I said, ‘Sure we can get toys for the hospital.’”
At first, White had envisioned collecting five or six toys to bring to the hospital. However, as they reached out for donations and support on platforms like Facebook groups such as Moms of Delaware and a buy nothing group, the response exceeded all expectations. More than 300 toys were donated as a result of their efforts.
Support poured in from both near and far, from out-of-state family and friends, stretching from Florida to Colorado. Donations included crayon boxes, glow tubes, art supplies, baby blankets, teethers, rattles, nerf guns, and more.
For White and her family, the goal was to bring the holiday spirit to families experiencing an atypical Christmas. “It’s one less thing the parents have to worry about right now with their kids being in the hospital at Christmastime,” she said.
White said the most rewarding part for her was teaching her son that Christmas varies for everyone, and not everyone gets to celebrate it in the usual way at home.
“I want my son to realize that this is just a drop in the darkness. I want him to realize that there’s kids that aren’t as privileged as he is and they’re not all home with their families on Christmas. It’s very important for me to teach him to give back and for him to see that there is still good in the world,” she noted.
This holiday season, she asks one favor from community members.
“Just try to think about others during the holiday season. I mean if you can give your kid one less gift to be able to benefit another child who’s not going to have anything on Christmas,
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