Adapted from a story on America Now News Service, with additions from the Advocate Children’s Hospital Facebook Page. Photos used in the following story are from the Advocate Children’s Hospital Facebook Page.
Although Christmas is still more than two months away, one cafeteria worker at the United Church of Christ’s Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago is already well into the planning for her annual surprise. Jessie Tendayi saves her money every year to do something special around Christmas time for the children at Advocate Children’s Hospitals in Oak Lawn and Park Ridge, Ill. Last year, what she did blew the rest of the hospital staff away.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Tendayi saved up all year and spent nearly $5,000 of her own money on around 1,300 toys. She even shopped for all the toys herself.
“I have to do what I have to do to make the children happy,” Tendayi told the Chicago Tribune.
On Dec. 12, 2016, Tendayi delivered toys to the hospitals. The next day, Dec. 13, Good Morning America showed up to share in the big “toy reveal” and also gave Tendayi a $5000 gift certificate for Toys R Us.
According to Mad World News, Tendayi began buying toys for children at the hospital in 2009. That year, she bought 100 gifts for children spending Christmas in the hospital. Every year since, she’s tried to increase that number.
“Why do I do it? God put it in my heart,” Tendayi said. “One day I was watching TV and I saw children in need. I asked myself, ‘What should I do for them to calm down what they are going through?’ So I started saving my money to make sure the children had something to play with while they are sick, so they can forget their pain.”
Tendayi and her husband moved from Zimbabwe to Chicago 20 years ago. The couple never had any children of their own, but as Tendayi says, “I do now. I do have a lot.”
Tendayi has worked at Advocate for 19 years. While she makes a humble living from her job, Tendayi has set up a savings account that sets aside money every month toward her shopping spree at the end of the year.
“It’s not about being rich. It’s not about money,” she said. “The little we have, we can share. For me, it’s a blessing. I’m able to make a difference for the children. Children, they need somebody who cares about them. You want to make a difference to them. I felt in my heart I had to do something for the children.”
For Tendayi, the biggest gift is seeing how much the children appreciate the gifts. She says the children make her feel like she has a family.
“I’m happy. I’m happy to do this,” she said. “When God puts this in your heart, you don’t get tired.You love what you’re doing. I love helping other people.”
Learn more about Tendayi’s charity, Love for Children.