MIRAMAR (CBS4) — This is Amanda’s story.
The two-year-old, who loved to dance, lost her fight with a rare type of brain cancer in June 2009, but her spirit lives on, especially at Christmas time.
Her father, Miramar Police Officer Carlos Villalona, remembers the two Christmas’ his daughter and family spent at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital as Amanda underwent tests and treatments.
He knows the pain and suffering that children and families struggling with illness go through firsthand, and how much more difficult it is during the holiday season.
“You can’t put into words the grief that they go through having to spend the holidays in the hospital,” Villalona said.
So, Villalona and nine other Miramar Police officers — along with the help of a dedicated colleague and a grant from Wal-Mart to buy toys — made this a special Christmas for a group of sick children.
For several hours Friday, the officers sat with the kids and their parents in a hospital playroom. They made an arts and crafts project and handed out dozens of toys.
“If we can brighten their day, even for one second see these kids smile for the two or three minutes that we’re here, it makes a world of difference,” Villalona said. “I’ve been on the other side and when someone walked into my hospital room with my daughter there and gave us toys and brought that light to our darkness, it’s gratifying to do that back to them.”
One child caught Villalona’s eye, a small girl named Naushin, dressed in pink and cradled in her father’s arms.
Last year, Villalona said, Naushin was bald and locked in a struggle with leukemia. This year, she has a a thick growth of hair and is doing much better.
“To come back a year later and see her just full of hair and doing great, it’s gratifying and very, very touching,” he said.
As the tears flowed from Naushin’s mother’s eyes it was clear she, too, was deeply moved.
Paul Taylor’s daughter, Tammy, is suffering with bronchitis. Her face exploded into smiles when she opened a new puppy dog stuffed animal.
Paul was extremely grateful.
“When I see the fun that she’s having and all the activities going on here, it is more than Christmas,” he said.
That is exactly what Villalona and his colleagues intended.
“It’s something that I enjoy doing now because somebody did it for me two years ago,” Villalona said. “This is our way of volunteering our time and giving back.”