Community Voices

Volunteers bring gifts to children hospitalized during the holidays

Volunteers with the Hearing Research Institute and Post #243 of the Jewish War Veterans USA visited children hospitalized during the holidays at Holtz Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. From left, in front, are Luis La Lama, Child Life Specialist Beke Pickard, Ainslee Ferdie and Marvin Dorn. From left, in back, are Graig Gamendia, Christina La Lama, Jennifer La Lama, Robert Pickard, David Magidson and Susan Pickard.
Volunteers with the Hearing Research Institute and Post #243 of the Jewish War Veterans USA visited children hospitalized during the holidays at Holtz Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. From left, in front, are Luis La Lama, Child Life Specialist Beke Pickard, Ainslee Ferdie and Marvin Dorn. From left, in back, are Graig Gamendia, Christina La Lama, Jennifer La Lama, Robert Pickard, David Magidson and Susan Pickard. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

For more than 30 years, physician Robert Pickard and his wife, Susan, have visited children hospitalized during the holidays.

Since 1990, they have increased their efforts through their Hearing Research Institute charity that helps deaf children and the elderly. Members of Post #243 of the Jewish War Veterans USA have joined them.

This year the volunteers brought toys, games, blankets and other presents to the little patients at Holtz Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

“This is our tradition for children who must be hospitalized over the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays,” Pickard said in an email.

He said Holtz Children’s Hospital Child Life Associate Anna Martinez and volunteer Serafina Choi led the group Dec. 10. Child Life Specialist and Mental Health Counselor Rebeccah (Beke) Pickard led the group Dec. 17 at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Especially meaningful to the Pickard family is giving tiny rattles to the little patients in the neonatal intensive care units.

“We are visiting and giving presents to little souls,” Pickard said.

The Hearing Research Institute is responsible for the law in Florida mandating universal infant hearing screening since 2000. As a result of the law, which was authored by Pickard, thousands of newborn infants have been identified as deaf in one or both ears.

“This early identification has led to early intervention to maximize these children who otherwise were lost in a world of silence,” said Pickard, a practicing ear, nose, and throat physician in South Miami.

You can learn more about the Hearing Research Institute and its good works at http://hearingresearchinstitute.org.

Holiday toy delivery

Staff members at Homestead-Miami Speedway volunteered to spread holiday cheer by delivering and presenting gifts to the pediatric patients at PATCHES nursing center in Florida City and the Speediatrics Unit at Homestead Hospital — a tradition that began in 2007.

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Santa made a special visit to the children at PATCHES nursing center in Florida City and the Speediatrics Unit at Homestead Hospital. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

They also brought Santa Claus in to hand deliver the wrapped presents for the event

The Speedway staff and Santa Claus’ first stop in town was to PATCHES, a nonprofit organization that serves children with medical needs, such as pulmonary management, medication, and growth and development issues. More than 90 gifts were donated and given to the children who ranged in age from newborns to teenagers.

Following the visit to the nursing center, Santa then headed to Homestead Hospital where he interacted with children in the Speediatrics Unit. Santa gave the children teddy bears and gift cards.

All the gifts were donated by Homestead-Miami Speedway’s charitable arm, Driving for a Cause.

“We are always looking to provide comfort to those who need it the most in the South Florida community,” Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer wrote in an email. “Having the opportunity where we can help touch the lives of children during this holiday season is extremely special for all of us at the track.”

New Neighbors luncheon

The New Neighbors Club of South Dade’s mission is to give you opportunities to meet your neighbors and develop community awareness while enjoying fun events.

Everyone is invited to join the group at monthly luncheons or at any of the upcoming club activities. The group strives to provide friendly settings for socializing with friends and learning about the community.

The next luncheon program will feature guest speaker Julia R. Cayuso, director of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli@UM), an organization dedicated to those 50 and older who are seeking intellectual enrichment and social interaction.

Guests will gather at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 10 at Devon’s Seafood Restaurant, 11771 Sherri Lane, in the Town and Country Mall in Kendall. The cost is $24, paid by check, and reservations are required by 6 p.m. Jan. 5. Contact Charlene Richards at 305-251-3074 or email erinsmom623@yahoo.com.

Visit http://newneighborssouthdade.webs.com for more information.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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