Pediatric Patients and Their Families Enjoy Christmas in July
CATEGORY: News and Community; Philanthropy
At a farm nestled in the fields of Geauga County, the spirit of whimsy is in the air. It may be summer in Northern Ohio, but for dozens of families, Christmas in July at Santa's Hide-A-Way Hollow in Middlefield offered a little bit of holiday magic.
Between down days, mobility concerns and the reality that time is precious, days like this can be a rarity. The event provided a much-needed day off for nine Hospice of the Western Reserve pediatric patients, their siblings and families who face the stress of caring for a seriously ill child around the clock.
Making memories was the rule of the day, which included photos with Santa Claus, mini manicures from a local salon and a cookout on the 100-acre farm. The elaborately themed property includes a workshop, post office, an oversized model train and plenty of elves and reindeer.
"It is an escape," says Michelle Miller, pediatric team social worker for Hospice of the Western Reserve. "They could get ice cream any time of day, or go get a present. They could have as many sodas as they wanted. It was like a national holiday for some of them."
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"Merry Christmas!" Santa bellowed as he welcomed his visitors at the beginning of the day. Santa is Bill Dieterle, who naturally fits the role with white hair, a long white beard and a warm spirit. He founded Santa's Hide-A-Way Hollow in 1982 to provide a respite for seriously ill children and to bring families together during a very difficult time. Since its founding, Dieterle and his team of volunteers have seen more than 58,000 children, both on his property and offsite.
He began working with Hospice of the Western Reserve almost 20 years ago, but this is the first year Santa opened the grounds for an all-day event that also included children from Akron Children's Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.
"Hospice (of the Western Reserve) has been a great partner," Dieterle says. Miller is instrumental in the partnership. In the past, she would refer a patient, and Dieterle would pull out all the stops.
"He would bring the fire trucks and the elves right to the (patient)," Miller says. Now she is hoping to use the Hideaway as a respite for several families at any time throughout the year. "He wants us to use the place," she says.
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For the Jones family of Westlake, the day was about their son Isaac, who is being treated by Hospice of the Western Reserve for neuroblastoma.
"This is another opportunity for us to make some memories and spend time with Isaac," his mother, Jennifer Jones, says.
Pictured, Isaac Jones and his sister, with Batman, (top) Santa directing elves on motorcycles to the Hideaway.