ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - About 100 families will spend Christmas at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, but some community members are pitching in to make it feel more like home for them.
Rene Porter had some helpers of her own Monday to drop off about 30 gift bags -- each one filled with Christmas decorations from different donors ready to go up in patients’ rooms.
“It’s become part of our holiday tradition at this point,” Porter explained.
That holiday tradition stems from something that happened about five years ago. Porter says some close friends were staying at the hospital with their son Greyson over the holidays.
“One day that we came to visit, we knocked on the same door that we always do. We opened the door, walked in, and their entire room was decorated for Christmas. And it was a care package that their family had sent to them,” Porter said.
She says she decided to name the effort to help other families in a similar situation in Greyson’s memory. People who work with the kids say spreading the holiday spirit can go a long way.
“We have trees and lights and different things that kids can decorate their room and make them more like home – make them feel more comfortable, calm, relaxed those sorts of things,” said Jeanine Clapsaddle, Clinical Supervisor for the Child life, music and the arts program.
The Greyson Project has grown from about 70 bags last year to around 300 this year. Porter says they’ve been contacted by people in New Orleans, Houston, and Albany.
What started as a local push to spread holiday cheer to those who need it most has spread across the country, benefiting those who get the decorations and those who give them.
“They’re living the unthinkable and to just be able to make it just a little bit normal is really, really rewarding for everybody that’s putting these bags together,” Porter said.
For more information on how to get involved, just search the “Greyson Project” to find the organization’s page on Facebook.