Children’s hospital gets special delivery

U.F. resident donates over 150 gifts to cardiac unit


UPPER FREEHOLD — There is never a good time to be in the hospital, but spending Christmas there is probably the worst time.

That’s the situation Tyler Raynor, then 11, was in last year when he needed heart surgery on Christmas Eve at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). However, when he awoke Christmas morning, there were gifts for him and other children in the cardiac unit.

This year, his sister, Nicole, 23, decided to play Santa for youngsters spending Christmas in the cardiac unit. With her own funds, she bought, wrapped and delivered more than 150 gifts.

Raynor said she and her brother both have a genetic heart condition called prolonged or long QT syndrome, which results in abnormal heartbeats. She and her brother both have defibrillators in their chests.

Tyler had a defibrillator installed in August 2006, but when the product was recalled in December 2007, the surgery had to be redone, she said.

On top of having to undergo another procedure, Tyler was very upset about missing Christmas at home. The family has an annual Christmas Eve gathering attended by 30 or 40 people.

The year Tyler spent Christmas Eve in the hospital, his parents, Doug and Diane, stayed with him and were touched when a man dressed as Santa distributed gifts to the patients.

Moved by CHOP’s Christmas spirit, Nicole Raynor wanted to reciprocate the generosity. When she contacted the hospital in the fall, CHOP officials told her that there would be between 50-60 young cardiac patients in the unit at Christmas. Raynor bought three age-appropriate gifts for children in several age categories. For infants and toddlers, she bought blankets. For older kids, she purchased DVDs, board games, arts and craft items, and dolls for girls.

Raynor, a paralegal at a Levittown, Pa., law firm, started shopping in September and finished by the beginning of December. She estimated spending about $1,000 on the project. Her boyfriend, Ed Rickenbach, Robbinsville, helped her wrap the gifts in cellophane with a snowflake motif, since CHOP policy did not permit wrapping the gifts in paper through which they could not be seen.

Raynor delivered the gifts to CHOP on Dec. 16.

“They said donations were down this year due to the economy,” she said, and her gifts were able to supply the entire cardiac unit, so that other donations could go to children spending the holiday in different CHOP units.

Although Raynor was very happy that she could provide the gifts on her own this year, in the future she may work with other groups on the endeavor, she said.