MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Students from teacher Jennifer Degl’s Mahopac High School class got into the altruistic holiday spirit last Thursday when they delivered 99 toys to Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. It's something that has become an annual traditional at MHS.
Interim high school principal John Augusta gave permission for a group of 10 students, along with Degl, to use a mini bus to travel to the hospital in Valhalla and deliver the toys.
“He sent a few representatives of the group Athletes Reaching Out along with us because they made several cards that will be passed out to pediatric patients over the holidays,” Degl said. “We were gone for just three school periods and the students had a great experience.”
Degl is very familiar with Maria Fareri. Four years ago, her daughter Joy was born there, a micro-preemie at only 23 weeks old. She credits the Maria Fareri staff with saving her baby's life and helping the family through the ordeal. She’s been an advocate for the hospital and at-risk babies ever since and has penned the book, “From Hope to Joy: A Mother's Determination and Her Micro Preemie's Struggle Beat the Odds," a memoir that recounts the challenges and triumphs of her ordeal.
Upon arrival, Degl arranged a tour of the hospital for the students, which included the entire bottom floor, and one of her daughter’s neonatologists arranged a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“Our students got to speak to one of the top neonatologists and they were even able to walk into a room where the babies spend several months of their lives,” Degl said. “They got to learn the reasons why babies are admitted to the NICU and learn about the equipment that keeps these babies alive.”
Degl said the students enjoyed the trip and found it very educational.
“One of the students wants to be a neonatal nurse and a few others want to go to medical school, so they found it particularly interesting,” she said. “Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is a very special place.”
Maria Fareri Children's Hospital is the only local trauma center that can treat pediatric patients in the event that they are seriously ill or in an accident.
“It's the place that no parent wishes their child needs, but it's an excellent hospital in the event that it's necessary,” Degal said. “I feel very lucky that our students are so generous and donate so many toys each holiday season and that my administration is supportive and allows us to make the trip to deliver them.”
For more information on premature births or to donate to Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, visit www.micropreemie.net.