SAN DIEGO - Sailors from guided-destroyer, USS Higgins (DDG-76) donated gifts and food to Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) pediatric hematology and oncology in-patient ward making the holidays a little brighter for the special group of patients Dec. 21.
Higgins' Yeoman 1st Class Jaime Saenz's daughter, Isabella, is currently a patient in NMCSD's hematology and oncology in-patient ward and learned that past sponsors for the in-patient ward were not able to provide a holiday party this year. So Saenz approached his fellow shipmates in Higgins' First Class Petty Officers Association for help.
"I found out that the people who had provided funding for the holiday party pulled out the past two years. So I went back to my ship and approached the First Class Association, they agreed to provide funding and assist," said Saenz. "I also opened up the idea to the Wardroom and Chiefs' Mess. So we put together some funding and I got some volunteers. My wife and I, along with my generous shipmates, went out and bought gifts, stockings and food."
A special appearance by Santa Claus made the experience even more memorable allowing the kids to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.
"I think it's awesome! The second Petty Officer Saenz suggested it, we were all onboard," Lt. Cmdr. Megan Grubbs, Higgins Combat Systems officer. "The staff here is amazing! Every day they are doing miraculous things and any little bit we can do creates a remarkable experience for everyone," said Grubbs.
Pediatric in-patients were able to enjoy normal holiday festivities, in spite of ongoing going treatment.
"The kids will gain appreciation that they are not alone in the world," said Hospitalman Kyle Free. "It's good to know we have people out there that are willing to help and cheering them on during their fight [against cancer]," said Free.