For many people, Christmas is a time of year to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. It’s a time to cozy up inside with yummy treats and pretty decorations while the snow falls outside.
Of course, not everyone has the same experience during the holiday season and for some people, it’s not all that great or special. Some people living in nursing homes, for example, often have few family members to celebrate with and there’s little to put them into the Christmas spirit.
Patricia Gallagher in Philadelphia realized that some senior citizens could use a little holiday spirit so she decided to bring a Christmas book to different nursing homes and read for people.
In an interview with CBS News, she said, “I just got this idea in my head to call two nursing homes at random and ask if my mother and I could come and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.'” The nursing homes were more than happy to welcome her in and the residents of those homes were equally thrilled.
To go along with the book reading, Patricia brought some of her kids’ stuffed animals so the senior residents could hold them while she read the story.
However, when it was time to pack up and go to the next nursing home, Patricia found that no one wanted to give the stuffed animals back!
She explained to CBS News, “But when we went to gather them and take them back to go to the next nursing home, nobody wanted to give up their teddy bear or their stuffed animal in any way…It was just a nursing home and it was just a lot of elderly people sitting in wheelchairs just kind of waiting and waiting for what? And all of a sudden, the whole room became alive with people jingling bells and holding Santa Claus [dolls] and everything and they really didn’t want to give them back because they thought we had given them a gift.”
Seeing the joy that a simple present can bring, Patricia had the idea to gather stuffed animals and dolls as a gift for senior citizens living in nursing homes.
She said that she hopped on Craigslist and put an ad up for gently used stuffed animals. It wasn’t long before it became a community effort and local schools and churches started hosting stuffed animal collections on her behalf. In just two years, she collected more than 11,000 stuffed animals to gift people!
With so many stuffed animals to gift people, Patricia branched out from senior living facilities and started offering gifts to people living in homes for veterans and retired nuns as well.
It’s not just the stuffed animals that bring people joy, but it’s the memories from childhood they revoke and the comfort those memories bring.
You can see more of her work in the news segment below: