CHICAGO (CBS) — Christmas cheer comes in all kinds of ways, from all kinds of people. Just ask the very lucky kids at one suburban hospital.
Jessie Tendayi is a cafeteria worker at Advocate Trinity Hospital; certainly not making a lot of money, yet she saves up thousands of dollars every year to buy toys for sick children at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Twenty-one-month-old Aaron Klinckman got a special visit Tuesday morning, and received a new toy truck.
Aaron was born premature. He has a condition where excess cerebrospinal fluid collects in his brain. He was brought to Advocate Children’s Hospital on Monday after he fell ill.
“He was just throwing up a lot. He was acting a little lethargic; really tired, didn’t want to be up much,” said his mother, Emily.
Tendayi is Santa Claus’ treasured elf at the hospital. She’s been delivering toys she handpicked and purchased herself.
“God put in my heart that I could do something for these children. So I decided to come up with a plan whereby I can put a smile on faces of the children,” she said.
She spent $5,000 this year to purchase gifts for children at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge. She needs a U-Haul truck to transport all the toys from the store.
“I don’t make that much, but to me it’s not about the paycheck. To me, it is about compassion you have towards other people. So the little you have, you share,” she said.
Tendayi has donated toys to sick children for 8 years in a row. She said she does it partly because she couldn’t have children of her own.
“I wanted kids, but I wasn’t blessed to have children. I was blessed to have these children, the ones I’m buying toys right now,” she said.
Thirteen-year-old Lanyiah Aldridge received art supplies. She has sickle cell disease and is recovering from surgery.
“It’s awesome. Thank you so much,” she said.
Tendayi said she feels “overwhelmed with the love I have for these children.”
Tendayi said when she sees the kids smile, it makes her want to cry.