Team members and Santa Claus at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South’s 2023 Christmas in July toy drive event for hospitalized children.

By Jamie Lu

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa is hosting its 16th annual Christmas in July toy drive for hospitalized children. Riverview’s St. Joseph’s Hospital-South is also partaking in the event for the second year, titling it ‘Christmas in July at the South Pole.’ The program is organized by the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation and supports the bedside activities and complementary therapies provided to pediatric patients by the hospitals’ Child Life Departments. While undergoing treatment, pediatric patients often endure stressful and unfamiliar experiences, all while away from the comfort of their own homes. The toys and gifts donated during the Christmas in July event help to alleviate the children’s fear and provide comfort and joy to them during their stay.

“Toys that are donated go to a variety of different things. It can be for a celebration, like a birthday or a holiday. They can also provide a distraction for the patient while they are going through a procedure,” said Sarah Jenkinson of the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation. “A toy can help ease the stress and scariness of the ER. It allows the patient to focus on something other than the trauma they are experiencing.”

There are a number of ways the community can get involved, but one of the easiest ways is to start a personal fundraiser page, which can be done by visiting Community members can then share this fundraiser on their social media pages and even challenge their friends and colleagues. Other ways to become involved include donating online, starting a toy drive, encouraging local partners to support or becoming a sponsor.

Community members are also welcome to bring gifts in person to fill Santa’s sleigh at the Grand Finale event on Friday, July 26. Santa will be collecting donations at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa from 7 a.m.-12 Noon and at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South from 9-11 a.m. Toys should be new and unwrapped. Sensory toys as well as infant toys and rattles are especially appreciated. The website provides a list of other items needed.

Without a doubt, Christmas in July brings the hope and joy associated with its namesake holiday to the children who need it the most. The event “is something that our staff and our patients get to look forward to,” said Jenkinson.

St. Joseph’s Hospital-South is located at 6901 Simmons Loop in Riverview.

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