Season of giving celebrated


Christmas is the season for sharing. Sparkling festive ribbons adorn gifts wrapped in holiday paper. But the real excitement is hidden within the shinny wrappings. Our curiosity is held captive by what is in the box. However, this is not always the case as shown by some local elementary students. Students from the second, third, and fourth grade Talented and Gifted classes at Fair Elementary and Louisville Elementary began their Christmas season with a special gift.

This present was not wrapped in beautiful foil paper and tied with glittery ribbon. Instead this gift was wrapped in love and tied with heartstrings. These students collected money to support Friends of Children’s Hospital (FOCH) Light-A-Light project at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.

Partnering with Ballet Mississippi these students adopted Light-A- Light as their class service project. Students, parents, and teachers traveled to Thalia Mara Theatre in Jackson to present their $450 donation at the Nutcracker school performance. With an audience of about 1500 students from all over the state these Winston County students were recognized by David Keary, Ballet Mississippi’s Artistic Director, for their gift.

Following the performance, the students met with several of the dancers and Melanie Schade, FOCH’s Program Administrator. Schade presented a brief talk about Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, Mississippi’s only pediatric hospital, and what it would be like for a child to spend Christmas holidays in the hospital. Batson is the only hospital in our state that provides a pediatric cancer clinic, the only Level I emergency room designed specifically for children, and the only pediatric rehabilitative center. In addition, this hospital hosts the only pediatric heart center in the state. Annually, over 150,000 children from all 82 counties in Mississippi are served by this hospital. It was so encouraging to see the students from Winston County supporting Mississippi’s only pediatric hospital.

Last year the Light-A-Light project raised over $25,000 which helped fund special projects aimed at making a child’s hospital stay more comfortable. For example, LodgeNet Entertainment System was installed in each patient room and several treatment areas within the hospital. Along with new flat screen televisions, the LodgeNet System allows patients to watch television, play video games, play, stop, pause or rewind movies ON-Demand as well as view pre-recorded health videos regarding their condition or treatment. On Tuesday, December 4th, many of our state’s critically ill children and their families gathered in Batson’s lobby. Outside a sixteen foot Christmas tree wrapped in paper chains created by the pediatric patients regally stood awaiting the click of a switch. This year special guest Dr. Blair E. Batson pulled the giant candy cane switch making the tree jump to life with hundreds of flickering lights. Each twinkling light was in honor or memory of someone. Some of these children attending were medically fragile and had never have the opportunity to leave the hospital. These children were provided front row seats as Ballet Mississippi dancers performed excerpts from The Nutcracker.

The first Christmas season began with a gift…the greatest gift of love. This is the season of love and sharing. It is a time to reflect on the needs of others. Thank you to this group of students who turned their eyes to those less fortunate and reached out to share a gift wrapped in love and tied with heartstrings. Lights may still be purchased at as a wonderful way to support our state’s only pediatric hospital and to honor someone.