The holiday season is a time of joy for many, but for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can instead serve as a painful reminder of wonderful times spent with them.
The season has been especially difficult for Mark Miller, a father in Alabama who lost his young daughter, Mary Beth, in 2013. After six open-heart surgeries and 348 medical procedures in her short life, Mary Beth suffered a brain injury during a heart transplant and passed away at the age of 7.
When Mary Beth had to stay in the hospital during the holiday season, her family brought Christmas to her, often sleeping on the floor or in a chair to make sure they celebrated together. When she passed, Miller made it his mission to make sure families spending Christmas in the hospital had one very important decoration: a tree.
With help from his colleagues at Ace Hardware, Miller reached out to other store locations asking for donations of Christmas trees in the hopes of setting up a Christmas tree farm at Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Birmingham.
His hopes became a reality on Dec. 5, when 30 Ace Hardware store owners donated 340 artificial trees, each standing at 3 feet tall, to Miller’s makeshift Christmas tree farm, ensuring the children who will be spending the holidays at the hospital would still have their very own trees.
Each child was able to choose their own tree, create ornaments and even meet Santa, all without leaving the hospital grounds. Decorations and activities were provided by the Junior League of Birmingham, while an area company called Hoar Construction made the tree farm come to life by building structures, hanging lights and creating artificial snow. After all, they don’t get much real snow in Alabama!
From the photos taken at the event, it looked like everyone had a magical time.
For the children who were unable to leave their rooms, the trees, activities and even Santa himself were brought directly to them so they wouldn’t miss out on the excitement.
“We are grateful to the Junior League of Birmingham, Ace Hardware and Hoar Construction for bringing some holiday cheer to Children’s of Alabama this season,” Emily Bridges, community development coordinator at Children’s of Alabama said in a press release. “The holidays can be a particularly trying time to be in the hospital, so to give our patients and families the opportunity to pick out a tree and participate in that holiday tradition regardless of their circumstances is especially meaningful.”
What a heartwarming way to spread some holiday cheer!