CHICAGO (CBS) — Squeals of joy could be heard as young patients at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge walked into a room full of toys.
“Wow, this is amazing,” screamed one girl while picking out the perfect toy.
Jesse Tendayi, a cafeteria worker at Advocate Trinity Hospital, saved $5,000 of her own money to buy presents for sick children. Toys R Us matched Tendayi’s donation; combining for a total of $10,000 worth of toys.
“I’ve been doing this for 9-years now. The first few years, I’d work extra hours — months and months of working extra hours. I’d work extra hours to raise the money. I save it all year for this,” she said.
Her first donation was 100 toys. Now, Toys R Us gives Tendayi gift cards so she can purchase the toys herself.
“It’s a financial sacrifice, yes, I have bills to bay,” she said. “But the kids come first. That’s why I save the money and make sure I have the toys I need to give the children.”
“It’s very beautiful what she does,” said Terrie Erickson, who’s 10-month-old son, Declan, is being treated for leukemia. “I’ve never heard of this before. This is the kindest thing, so sweet, we appreciate it all.”
Declan is currently in remission.
“This is his first Christmas, so we’re OK with the first one being in the hospital, but after this, it’s all going to be downhill and we’re going to keep kicking cancer’s butt,” Erickson said.
Tendayi, originally from Zimbabwe, said doing this brings her joy, knowing she can help the children temporarily forget they are sick.
After nearly a decade of making annual donations to the children’s hospital, this year, she also earmarked a portion of her toys for children in Puerto Rico.
“Since I don’t have my own children, these are the children I have now. Whatever they need, I’m here for them,” Tendayi said. “I’ll be doing this for a long time.”