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Delivering a holiday surprise to young hospital patients

12/19/2016 5:37 PM CET
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The 59-meter-tall (195 foot) tower crane we're using to build the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Research and Education Building in St. Petersburg, USA, normally lifts concrete, steel and everything else needed to create a major medical facility. On December 15, it had a far more special use: delivering more than 1,200 holiday toys to surprised young patients.

The "sleigh" with more than 1,200 holiday toys. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital)

Dozens of children – some still in their wheelchairs – together with parents and hospital staff were gathered outside the hospital, across the street from the facility being assembled. Many more were peering out from the windows of their rooms. The children couldn't have imagined what would happen next under the Florida sun.

High in the sky behind the controls of the crane was someone they recognized: Santa with his white beard and red hat. He shared a hearty "ho, ho, ho" via a two-way radio. But the surprise was just beginning. The crane swung into view a bright red "sleigh" full of wrapped toys. Closer and closer it came. Skanska "elves" – with holiday-themed hard hats – were with the children on the outside balcony, helping guide the sleigh in for a precise landing. Some of the children pointed in amazement.

Then the fun really began as the elves handed out presents. It was impossible to tell who was smiling more: the children or our team.

This surprise from Santa helped the children forget the serious medical challenges being faced. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital)

Wanting to do more

"We wanted it to be special," says General Superintendent Todd Collier. "We wanted to do more than just bring toys or donate toys. Our whole team has been so excited all week. We have just barely been able to contain ourselves waiting for today."

This surprise from Santa helped both the young patients and their families forget for a while the serious medical challenges being faced.

"Today they made me real happy. I feel better now," says patient Gabrielle Harrison.

Some of the Skanska "elves" behind the special delivery. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital)

Establishing a bond

This holiday event is the latest way that Skanska's team has engaged with the hospital community. Another way has been joining the hospital's Friday Dance Party, meant to raise the children's spirits after a grueling week of treatments. We have been so inspired by the bravery of the children, and the dedication of the hospital staff, that we want to help make their days a bit brighter.

Even if that takes doing a bit of dancing – definitely not something a construction crew normally does.

So more can live happy and healthy lives

We take great pride in making an enduring contribution to society by constructing the Research and Education Building. This facility will help more children live happy and healthy lives.

"The opportunity to work on a project like this that potentially could make some huge changes in a lot of kids' lives is a privilege to us," says Todd. "This is really special. We get a whole lot more than you could ever imagine – a lot of satisfaction. It's the holidays, it's the kids, it's them getting better."

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