Judi Driscoll is the Business Manager at the West Chester Area YMCA. She also orchestrates the branch’s Angel Tree in which YMCA and community residents donate gifts for local families who are in need at Christmas.
This year, after the gifts were picked up for distribution, she received a call from a grandmother, asking for a little help. Judi told her the program was over, but listened to what the woman shared.
“After listening to her with an open heart, I felt immediately moved to try and help this family,” recalls Judi.
The woman is the grandmother of Kevin, a 12 year old boy with severe cerebral palsy. The family faces daily challenges as Kevin does not walk, talk and is about 90% blind. Kevin has had numerous surgeries and even flat lined during his last one, but was resuscitated. The grandmother moved in with her daughter a few years ago to help her with Kevin.
As Christmas approached, the grandmother went to the bank to get a little bit of money from her social security/disability money to spend on her grandson and great-grandson, 6 year old Aiden. However when she got there, there was a mishap with the money, so she had none to spend.
“She was asking for just a couple of things to brighten up Christmas for her family,” Judi says, “a bright light-up toy (like a disco ball), pajamas and sheets for his hospital bed.” Kevin wears diapers and frequently soils his clothes and sheets. “And Paw Patrol books, pajamas or anything to put a smile on Aiden’s face on Christmas.”
As the conversation continued, the grandmother shared that they “dreamed” of having Santa Claus come to their house so they could have pictures with him, as they do not know how many Christmases they will have left with Kevin.
Judi told that grandmother that she would see what she could do and would get back to her.
“I shared the story and soon a number of people on West Chester’s leadership team were interested in making this a ‘Christmas Miracle’,” says Judi.
Nick Parise, the West Chester Area YMCA’s Facilities Director offered to be Santa (his new name is now St. Nick!). Becca Starr, Advanced Director of Youth Development, Judi and her husband, Tim, and West Chester Board Member, Tim Dever, all offered help and were very generous.
In a week’s time, they had gathered enough to make a real Christmas experience for the entire family – gifts for the kids, a Christmas meal, grocery gift cards and Santa. On Christmas Eve, the group drove out to Coatesville to bring hope, joy and love to the family.
“From the moment we entered the house, Kevin could not stop smiling,” Judi recalls. “He was so overjoyed that we were there and that Santa had come to see him! The family was so touched by our willingness and desire to help that the grandmother broke down in tears.”
The grandmother “has called me her angel multiple times, as no one else was willing to help so close to Christmas,” Judi continues. “But what she doesn’t realize is the joy that it brought to each one of us in being able to bring them hope and love just by providing a little Christmas and Santa.”