Christmas for the Van Horn family wasn’t supposed to turn out the way it did. The plan was for presents opened at home and the newborn, Logan, to make his first visit with Santa Claus. Breathing apparatuses and a prolonged hospital stay had no place on the family’s list of expectations.
Dreams of happiness were dashed and a stark fear of something going wrong and making an awful situation worse, but the Van Horn family enjoyed a brief respite courtesy of a bundle of toys and kind acts from Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.
In the days before their hospital visit, Chandler residents Nathanael and Elizabeth were readying 3-month-old Logan, the couple’s first child, for his first Christmas, including a trip to the mall for a first photo with Santa.
“You want the very first Christmas for your child to be smooth and happy, but that’s not always possible,” Nathanael said.
The ominous undertones of that quote began when Logan first showed signs of illness one week before Christmas. He picked up a fever that hovered around 100 degrees until Dec. 20, when it spiked to 102.
A trip to the emergency room led to a stay at Cardon Children’s Medical Center to treat young Logan for pneumonia, pink eye and bronchiolitis, which affects a person’s respiratory tract.
Visions of a smooth and happy holiday season turned into distress for the new parents, who had to watch Logan fight through three maladies and hope their son’s condition didn’t worsen.
“I wish I could take my son’s place and take the burden off of his shoulders,” Nathanael said.
As Logan’s fever began to break and the situation became brighter on Christmas Eve, the Van Horns, who knew they had to stay through the following day, were told they’d receive a present or two from Mr. and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Day.
“I was only expecting a toy or a onesie, but they ended up giving us a whole bag of toys,” he said.
Indeed, there was a onesie in the bag, but it came in tandem with a Teddy bear, a musical baby toy, hand-wash clothes and clothes to fit Logan once he reached the 6- to 9-month range. The bag, in essence, was a blend of pragmatic gifts and toys, packaged with a second chance to get Logan that first photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“They really spoiled my son,” Nathanael said.
Many items in the bags that went to patients across Cardon Children’s on Christmas came from donations made by the public in the weeks and months leading up to the holiday. They came courtesy of toy drives launched by citizens and organizations: Mesa District 3 City Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh had a little help from students at the East Valley Institute of Technology, NYPD Pizza and the Cheermobile which traveled around the Valley collecting goods.
Giving, though, often occurs in a vacuum that divides the giver from the receiver. Someone who drops a dollar into a Salvation Army tin, for example, knows the dollar will go for something, but he or she never knows what’s purchased with it.
It’s a similar situation for people who contribute to toy drives, as they have no idea who received the Barbie doll, stuffed animal or any item given during the holiday season. In this case, however, toys were either delivered directly to the families stuck in a hospital on Christmas or into a toy closet for a child to snag after they underwent a serious procedure.
Among those families were the Van Horns, who made it back home the morning after Christmas with Logan healthy once again.
“We just feel very blessed and very thankful we ended up at Cardon; by the grace of God,” Nathanael said.
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