Coeur d'Alene Police Department(SPOKANE, Wash.) — Christmas came early for patients at a Washington state children’s hospital thanks to a small town police department.
On Dec. 20, the police department of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, donated roughly $20,000 worth of toys — filling 63 U-Haul boxes — to the Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Wash.
This is the third year in a row that the department has gathered toys and donations for children who can’t go home for the holidays.
The tradition began when one of the police officer's children spent Christmas in the hospital a few years ago.
Caiden Avriett, the son of Sergeant Shane Avriett, was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia in 2015, a condition that left a hole in the muscle between his chest and abdomen.
Caiden was on life support over the holidays in 2015. When Avriett walked into his son’s hospital room on Christmas Day, he found a pile of donated toys.
“To have a 5-day-old child fighting for his life, hooked up to machines, and have someone donate toys, was such a positive spin on what we were going through,” Avriett told ABC News.
The experience gave him the idea to spread holiday cheer to other families.
“If your child wakes up Christmas morning and they are not in their bed it means a lot to know someone in the community cares that they are fighting something big,” Avriett said.
Avriett set up a “Santa Store” located inside Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, where patients can pick out a present for themselves or for their families.
“This is what Christmas is all about — giving to one another,” Kathy Maurer, director of marketing for the Providence HealthCare Foundation, told ABC News. “We do whatever we can to bring some sense of normalcy to children in the hospital.”
The toy drive also brings joy to the hospital staff and volunteers.
“For our staff and volunteers to see these kids carefully select just the right gifts and see the smiles on their faces, it makes it worthwhile,” Maurer said. “The Santa Store is an ongoing tradition and we can’t imagine Christmas without it.”
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