At The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, examples of selfless holiday behavior abound each year.
The 2011 holiday season was another year of abundant good will, as countless pediatric patients benefitted from a host of toy drives that delivered literally thousands of gifts for hospitalized children.
Monmouth Medical Center is licensed by New Jersey as a children’s hospital for Monmouth and Ocean counties, and this designation tells the community that pediatrics is a major part of the hospital mission, according to Meg Fisher, M.D., chair of pediatrics at Monmouth and medical director of The Children’s Hospital. She notes that the community in turn recognizes the important role Monmouth plays in the health of its children — as evidenced by the outpouring of support the hospital receives each year from organizations and individuals throughout the state.
Among the host of individuals and organizations rallying in support of The Children’s Hospital was the Jersey Shore Harley Owners Group, whose second annual Motorcycle Toy Run kicked off the season of giving for Monmouth.
More than 150 riders from the Jersey Shore Harley Owners Group and the Long Branch Police Department braved the cold to travel from the Atlantic Highlands Marina to Monmouth Medical Center on November 19 to donate hundreds of toys to patients of The Children's Hospital. The motorcyclists left their staging area at about 10 a.m., escorted by three Long Branch police officers on motorcycles and picking up a Long Branch fire truck — carrying Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and an elf — a few blocks from the hospital.
When they arrived at the hospital, they were greeted in the lobby by a handful of patients from the 21-bed Pediatrics unit, which was at or near capacity. The group visited the other children in their hospital rooms. Five-hundred toys, all donated to Jersey Shore HOG, were delivered to the hospital, either for distribution Saturday or through the holidays. Jersey Shore HOG, which has more than 300 members in Monmouth and Ocean counties and Staten Island, focuses its charity work to benefit military families and children’s causes.
And for the 15th consecutive year, Kathy Croker traveled from her Oakland home in Bergen County to present scores of toys to The Children’s Hospital. It was a tradition begun in November 4, 1996, to honor the memory of her son Christopher on the date that would have marked his 13th birthday. He died earlier that year in January of cystic fibrosis.
At that first toy delivery, Croker held her infant daughter Kaylee, who was diagnosed at 1 month of age with cystic fibrosis and is a patient at Monmouth's Cystic Fibrosis Center. In 2011, she traveled to Monmouth with a healthy 14-year-old Kaylee, who helped deliver three truckloads of toys to the hospital loading dock following a check up with Robert Zanni, M.D., chief of pediatric pulmonology for The Children’s Hospital and medical director of the hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis Center.
Croker said the toys are garnered through toy drives she organizes at Oakland schools. She notes that this year’s totals were boosted by a contest at the middle school that netted 200 toys from the winning homeroom.
For Wall resident John Rippetoe, a holiday tradition for the past 10 years has been to visit The Children's Hospital dressed as Santa Claus with gifts he gathers through a unique twist on the visit from Saint Nick. "We visit a Tinton Falls neighborhood where at each house, rather than the child receiving a toy from Santa Claus, the family donates a toy for The Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center," he explained. "It's such a great experience, and a great message for the kids, who can see that's it's so important to give, as well as to receive."
On December 20, he arrived with his wife Kathy and nephews Christopher and Michael Morano, a Monmouth Regional High School senior and Red Bank Catholic High School sophomore, respectively, and distributed age-appropriate toys to children on the inpatient unit at The Children's Hospital.
The holiday season also marked the 12th consecutive year that Monmouth was fortunate enough to benefit from an annual Christmas day pilgrimage to bring toys to hospitalized children, courtesy of a toy drive organized by the Colts Neck community.
Each Christmas since 1999, surgeon Stephen Chagares, M.D., and his wife, Marianne, and a host of family members and friends, have been bringing donated toys to The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. Dr. Chagares dons a Santa Claus suit and white beard to distribute toys donated by these longtime supporters of the holiday toy drive: Colts Neck residents Dr. and Mrs. Robert Tomaro Jr. and family and Dr. and Mrs. Alan Zaccaria and family, the Colts Neck Women’s Club, Beacon Planning and Consulting Services/Andrew and Colleen Janiw and The Casa Luca Foundation — two Colts Neck-based organizations.
“We thank Dr. Chagares for his generosity of spirit and for so selflessly thinking of others — harkening the true spirit of the holiday season,” Dr. Fisher says. “And we are so grateful to the members of the Colts Neck community who once again came together to make this possible.”
Often on hand to personally accept the donations, Dr. Fisher says that for The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth, it's not just about care, but about caring and ensuring that young patients are as comfortable and content as possible. She notes that the toys benefit the children not just at the holidays, but throughout the year, as a supply is put aside for the Pediatric Treatment Area for distribution to children in need of a diversion when undergoing a difficult medical procedure.
“I am so grateful for the embrace of our caring community of supporters, who work tirelessly on behalf of The Children’s Hospital,” she says. “On behalf of the countless children who benefit from your generosity, we thank you.”
January 30, 2012
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