Durham, N.C. — Having a child in the hospital is not how families want to spend Christmas. But for 27 families in that exact situation, three high school girls made their holiday a little brighter Saturday.
Caitlin Hunnicutt, Meredith Tart and Katie Stover – all juniors at West Johnston High School – volunteer each month at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham. It’s a place of shelter for families whose children are being treated in local hospitals.
The girls usually cook meals as part of their service, but they decided to take it a step further and hold a toy drive. Last week, the girls spent 12 hours at a local Food Lion and collected about 300 toys.
“People kept coming out,” Meredith said.
On Friday, the girls wrapped each of the presents and brought them to the children and their families on Saturday.
“There you go, sweetie,” Caitlin said as she handed a child a present. “They can’t go home. They’re spending their Christmas here or in the hospital, and that’s not any kind of way any kid wants to spend their Christmas.”
“It takes a lot of strength to go through what these families are going through,” Meredith said.
Opening presents was a welcome distraction for Chad and Taylor Jacobs. Their baby brother, Nalin, has been at Duke Hospital since he was born on Aug. 28 with fluid in his lungs.
“[The girls] have made [my children's] Christmas so much better,” Bernard Jacobs said. “I mean, they have really gone the extra mile for the kids.”
The girls are also collecting tabs from soda and soup cans. Each tab nets 4 cents for the Ronald McDonald House. The girls’ goal is to collect 2,000 tabs by the end of the school year.
“It makes it great, knowing that we’re giving back to the community and helping that many more people have a Merry Christmas,” Meredith said.