SPOKANE, Wash. - For the children and families who will spend the holiday at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, maintaining Christmas traditions and shopping for gifts can be challenging, but the hospital has worked up a way to bring some of the spirit to them.
The Santa Store is a shop set up specifically for children in the hospital to buy Christmas gifts for their family .
“Because they won't theoretically be out in the community shopping, so they have the opportunity to pick things out, and it relieves a little bit of the burden on the family financially because the gifts are free,” said volunteer Kayleen Campbell.
For three days each December, a corner of the hospital becomes an impromptu North Pole, full of donated gifts for all ages.
“They have the opportunity to come in during those three days and shop and see Santa, too, because he's there,” Campbell said.
“Of course- it's his store,” she said.
Between choosing toys for brothers and sisters and a gift for mom and dad these kids usually walk away with something for themselves, too.
“They get to be their own boss and do their own shopping.. and it's pretty fun to watch them,” Campbell said.
Volunteers even help by wrapping the presents to keep those gifts a surprise until Sunday.
Much like the spirit of the season, the Santa Store is not just about the presents; it gives patients a chance to just be kids.
As the parent of a former patient, Campbell knows first hand.
“A lot of things are focused on them, good and bad. When you're in the hospital. you don't have a lot of choices. you've got to do what you've got to do,” she said.
When so much of your life is controlled by doctors and a diagnosis, it's little freedoms like this that make the difference.
“I try not to use the word normal because, really, what is it? But having that chance to have a little bit of real life outside of all of the medical procedures and the worry and everything that's going on has been huge,” Campbell said.
Spending Christmas in the hospital will never feel "normal", but the Santa Store finds a way to make it feel special.