BOISE -- As with every Christmas, for some families, it's a bit more difficult to make Christmas wishes come true for children. In a hospital setting, those wishes can be hard to grant, but staff at St. Luke's Children's Hospital work every year to help families in that situation.
The hospital has kept this particular under wraps for years, going without much public recognition, but this year, they let KTVB inside a secret place for families called Santa's Toy Box .
Right inside the hospital, an entire 'store' is set up thanks to donors and the Child Life Services staff who know first hand how hard hospital stays are on families, especially for little patients and their brothers and sisters.
We set up this wonderful shopping center. We invite parents to come over and shop for their kids. Parents, grandparents, caregivers, they all come and shop for what they need, Amy Rohyans-Stewart, Clinical Supervisor for Child Life Services, said.
Families can pick out whatever they need, and then volunteers wrap the gifts for them. Some families just need little things like stocking stuffers, while others haven't had time to shop at all because they've been focused on their child getting better or can't afford toys because of medical bills.
I can't tell you the number of times we've had families say, 'I just got done telling my kids we just couldn't have Christmas this year.' And I love to say to them, 'Well, won't they be surprised? Come with me,' Rohyans-Stewart said.
Jenni Florendo's daughter was in the hospital for pneumonia, and she didn't have time to go Christmas shopping for either of her twin daughters.
To have this is such a blessing, to just take this worry out of it. I don't have to worry about them having the things they want under the Christmas tree. They're going to forget about the hospital visit, but they're going to remember Christmas morning waking up and having all these fun things, Florendo said.
Like many, Florendo says she never imagined needing help and says it was tough to accept it, but knowing Christmas will be special is just what she wants for her kids.
I think that a lot of times you think about how you can help other people in the holidays and what you can give. It's hard a little bit to take sometimes, so at first I felt like, we don't need that. But really the reality of it is, we do need it right now. We need this because otherwise my kids won't have maybe that spectacular of a Christmas, Florendo said.
Stories like Florendo's are just why St. Luke's keeps opening Santa's Toy Box and will keep doing it year after year.
I never tire of walking a family in and turning back to look at them, Rohyans-Stewart said.
Child Life specialists, who do this program, are in the hospital to offer emotional and developmental support to patients and their families to make the hospital less intimidating and stressful.
This is the 7th year of Santa's Toy Box.