Children’s Miracle Network and Ronald McDonald House work to bring the holidays to families with hospitalized children


JOPLIN, Mo. — Being home for the holidays is something that many of us may take for granted.

But, for families and babies in the NICU at Freeman Health System, going home for Christmas just isn’t possible.

This year, ten babies born prematurely or who are ill will be spending their Christmas at the hospital.

But with the help of Children’s Miracle Network, a special friend stopped by to spread some holiday cheer.

For many new moms, those first few moments after giving birth are…

Ayla Daugherty, said, “One of the best things in the world.”

But for moms like Ayla Daugherty, the days following that special moment have been difficult.

“My son’s been in the NICU for a couple weeks”

Her son Donovan was born five weeks early.

“So he had a lot of trouble breathing.”

With the help of Children’s Miracle Network, Santa visited the 10 babies in the NICU at Freeman Health System. Delivering gifts and posing for photos.

Michaela Bennett, Program Manager, Children’s Miracle Network, said, “It means so much to us to be able to provide this for the families, they’re not able to be home with their loved ones, take their babies homes and do the traditional first Christmas things.”

“I’m staying over at the Ronald McDonald House and my family’s coming over there for Christmas,” said Daugherty.

Annette Thurston: Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States, said, “One of our NICU families described it as a very protective bubble. From the hospital to Ronald McDoanld House there is this sense of comfort.”

And Saint Nick helped bring some extra comfort.

“I almost wanted to cry when he smiled at Santa,” said Daugherty.

And, like many moms whose babies are in the NICU, there’s only one thing on her mind this Christmas.

“I’m just waiting for him to come home.”

Ayla Daugherty says she’ll also be reunited with her one-year-old daughter who she hasn’t been able to see since little Donovan has been in the NICU.

Her biggest Christmas wish is to be able to introduce her two babies for the very first time.

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