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Early Christmas at UIHC

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Sticking on Scotch tape and tucking in tissue, a crew of employees-turned-elves from the Child Life Program at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital tracked down toys in their own version of Santa's workshop on Monday afternoon to fulfill some very important wish lists.

The staff assembled gifts for 150 children -- both patients and their siblings -- who are spending Christmas in the hospital.

"We know that hope is kind of the overall most important thing that children have and so trying to give that to them is so important," said Child Life Program manager Gwen Senio.

They rolled out cart after cart, delivering bundles of joy to every girl and boy. Krystal Robertson, 6, is the Kid Captain for this year's bowl game, and got her own set of Iowa Hawkeyes to run routes with before the big game.

"I like them and they became my favorite team," Robertson said.

"Trying to give them that feeling of normal life, what children normally should  be experiencing is so important," Senio said.

It's as important for the patients as it is for their siblings. All three of Kim Vandekieft's children opened presents from Santa. The family has been in Iowa City since June for 6-month-old Syndie. She had a successful heart transplant earlier this year.

"This Christmas they are very spoiled. We all are," Vandekieft said.

While her older children, William and Isabella, play with their toys, Vandekieft said she found her Christmas gift in the Child Life staff. They helped her keep her kids in Iowa City during the entire process. Now that Sydnie is healing, Vandekieft said, it will be hard to leave.

"It will be. It's going to be hard, because these guys are like a part of your family," she said.

The Child Life staff wanted to extend a big thank you to all of the donors statewide who make the gift distribution possible.
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