COVID forces changes to Children’s National Hospital Christmas tradition

It should be the most wonderful time of year – and there are plenty of people working to make that happen for families who need it the most.

Judy Ross and her family have spent the last 35 years making sure families at Children’s National Hospital can have some semblance of normalcy during the holiday season.

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For 12 of those 35 years, Judy's husband dressed up as Santa Claus and the two would go room-to-room on Christmas Day visiting patients, taking pictures, and talking to families.

Understandably, this year was different due to the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions.

This was the first time in more than three decades Judy and her family have not been able to celebrate the holiday at the hospital, but they wanted to still continue their tradition of bringing the holiday spirit to patients, unwilling to let COVID-19 stop them.

This year, instead of visiting patients on Christmas Day, Judy and other child life specialists are helping Santa by packing and distributing toys to patient families at the hospital through Dr. Bear’s Holiday Shop.

The toy shop inside the hospital is filled with gifts thanks to generous donations.

It’s a taste of normalcy for these children and their families who are not only spending the holiday in the hospital but have also been navigating the coronavirus pandemic as well.

The child life specialists and Judy have been shopping for families based on a list of gifts that they can pick out for their children. They’ve been collecting toys all month long.