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Thursday, December 1, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLt. Gov. Francis Plays Santa for Young Patients

Lt. Gov. Francis Plays Santa for Young Patients

Young patient Nina Lewis gets a gift from "Santa Francis."From the minute he stepped into the Schneider Regional Medical Center lobby Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis was the center of holiday cheer. He first encountered a choir of Sparks High School volunteers singing carols, who soon turned their attention to their unexpected guest.
"Say Merry Christmas to the Lieutenant Governor," directed Judy Gomez, the group’s advisor.
The group happily complied, and Francis continued on his way to his true destination, the pediatrics ward. He was accompanied by the Island Angels, members of his office’s employee relations committee, who bore an enormous red box stuffed with more than 40 presents, each gaily contained in bright Christmas wrappings.
Head nurse Joan Alfred and care coordinator Eunice Gumbs greeted the party with big smiles, leading everyone into a playroom filled with pictures, books and toys. A few minutes later, the group welcomed three young patients, who took obvious delight in the diversion.
Francis joked with the children and the staff, playing Santa Claus, sans red outfit. The kids didn’t care; they were having fun.
"It’s true it takes a village to raise a child," Francis said. "That’s why we’re here, to share with you and show you our love. We want you to have a special Christmas, despite having to spend it in the hospital."
Christine deJongh Lewis, whose 11-year-old daughter was one of the recipients, was busy taking pictures of the event. "She’ll be home for Christmas," the mother happily confided.
The Sparks High School choir spread holiday cheer throughout the halls of Schneider Regional.The other two children will be spending the holiday at the hospital, Alfred said. And from all appearances, they’ll have lots of attention, anyhow. Down the hall, in fact, the Sparks choir was already ringing out with "Jingle Bells."
Johanna Steffersson, leader of the Angels, has enough enthusiasm for an entire choir of angels.
"We’ve been working hard," she said, indicating her crew: Erika Dover, Elita Bradshaw Sakeeena George and John D. Gumbs, the youngest angel.
Stefferson said the group was formed to build camaraderie among employees in the offices in both districts, and to do outreach. The camaraderie was evident Wednesday. With smiles all around, they presented Francis with a present for himself, a bountiful basket of goodies, prettily wrapped.
Francis was gracious. "When I receive a gift," he said, with a nod to the youngsters, "I like to share it." True to his word, he then presented his gift to head nurse Alfred.
That was fine with the Angels, who shortly presented him with another gift showing their appreciation of their boss. Another basket, another presentation, this time Eunice Gumbs received the gift basket.
Stefferson said they had about 40 gifts for the children, way too many for the three assembled on the ward. "We’ll leave some for the children who come in over the holidays," she said, "and take the rest to the Family Resource Center and Bethlehem House.
She said the group has held car washes and other fund-raisers over the year to accumulate the box of riches for the children, three of whom were overwhelmed with Christmas joy Wednesday.

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