BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Over 500 families are dropping in to the Sugar Plum Shop to find gifts for their children this Christmas. They have thousands of toys to chose from–and best of all, all of them are free! It’s a big help to parents who might not have the time or money to purchase the presents at a brick and mortar store.
That’s because their children are spending Christmas, or the days leading up to it, in the hospital.
“It’s a big relief,” said LaPorsha Denson,whose 3 year-old son, Christian, is currently battling Preleukemia. “I’ve almost been here 5 and half months, on and off. So it’s been very rough for us. I lost my job, because my son has been really sick. This has been a big help for me.”
Susan Jernigan and her family are in a similar situation–and have even been to a Sugar Plum Shop for their daughter in the past. “We’ve been here [the hospital] for almost two weeks,” she said. “So of course, my Christmas shopping hasn’t really gotten done.”
Jernigan’s daughter Emma Kate was born at 27 weeks, weighing only 15 ounces. Her daughter has continued to have issues with her lungs–especially during the winter cold and flu season. “And not to worry about the added burden–oh can we really afford this–when we have bills at home that need to be paid as well.”
“Nobody wants to be in the hospital at any time of the year,” said Joy Hardy, a Child Life Specialist with Children’s of Alabama. “certainly not at Christmas. They want to be in their home and enjoying time with their family.”
Hardy said that sponsors, volunteers, and hospital staff hope that the Sugar Plum Shop will not only be helpful to parents, but also offer them a break from hospital life.
“I just really prayed about this,” Denson said. “I said, God, you know my heart, and if I could work–I would, because I really don’t like handouts. I would rather work, but I couldn’t work this year. I would work maybe a week or two, and then that was it. My job finally let me go, because of my son. So I really didn’t have money to buy them [her children] things, because I was here. I just thank God for these great people.”