HOUSTON – The waiting room in the MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital on Dec. 18 was typically quiet, housing more than a dozen children and young adults – some wearing masks to shield themselves from germs and some sleeping in their parents’ arms. In the Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic, families from across the United States and from many counties around the globe waited for appointments with their oncologists and various forms of treatment.
It was a regular day until several carts loaded with dolls, interactive electronics, books, action figures and more were wheeled into the room. The toys, donated by Aramco Services Company (ASC), were quietly unloaded and placed under a Christmas tree decorated with construction-paper figures colored by young patients.
The unwrapped gifts piqued the interest of the children, and many curiously approached the tree to catch a good look of all that had arrived in advance of Santa Claus’ regular schedule. Although no child asked for a gift, each was allowed to choose one as an early Christmas present. Eyes lit up and little hands went grappling through the hundreds of toys to choose the perfect one. Their smiles became contagious, spilling over onto the faces of their grateful parents.
“I think it’s great,” said Michele Bolds, the mother of a 9-year-old girl awaiting a diagnosis. Bolds’ daughter, Shaeli Haliburton, seemed mesmerized as she looked at her new Princess Celestia My Little Pony. “My heart is pumping so fast,” she said. “I was really thinking about it for Christmas but I didn’t think I was going to get something so big.”
Across the waiting room sat Michael Ames, 22, there to receive treatment. Ames, a self-professed lover of chess, chose a wooden chess set partly because of his love for the game, and partly “to let the other kids have the remote control cars and other electronic choices,” he said. “There are a lot of kids here who are miles and miles away from their homes. Companies that do this make their spirits shine.”
Quinn Franklin, manager of the Child Life specialists at the Children’s Cancer Hospital, said the clinic sees as many as 60 children a day from infants to young adults. “The donations we receive not only impact the patients on the day the gifts are given, but they allow the kids to continue to use the gifts throughout the year,” Franklin said.
Some of the gifts, such as DVD players, videos, video games and kitchen sets – all chosen from a pre- approved wish list from the Children’s Cancer Hospital – remain at the clinic year-round so children can play with them in the adjoining play room.
Parents such as Amal Safouq, who traveled with her family from Kuwait for her 6-year-old daughter’s medical treatments, said the toys put the children at ease. “It’s very fine. This is a good idea,” she said, pointing to the Fisher Price Smart Tablet chosen by her daughter, Nona.
This is the second year ASC has donated toys to the MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, and it plans to continue the tradition. “We greatly appreciate all the good work carried out at this world-renown facility,” said Ali Mutairi, director of the ASC Public Affairs Department. “We are pleased to share the holiday spirit with these young patients.”
The company also donated toys to The Methodist Hospital System this year.