By Lizette Robles
Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to find nothing under the tree. No Hanukah presents to unwrap, no Elf on the Shelf, no trace of Santa or his reindeer, nothing to bring the magic of the holiday season to life. For many foster children across Hillsborough County, that unfortunately can be the reality.
But thanks to the generosity of the Moffitt community, the holidays will be a little brighter for more than 160 kids this year.
It all started five years ago when Moffitt nurse practioner Dalila Belinc watched someone pull unclaimed names from the Foster Angels tree that was on display in the Moffitt cafeteria. When Belinc learned that the kids whose names were not selected would go without presents, she took all 28 remaining tags and made sure each child received gifts that Christmas.
“My heart sank,” said Belinc. “These children have gone through so much. They deserve to experience the joy of the season.”
Over the years, Belinc’s colleagues have joined her in pursuit of making the holidays a little merrier for local kids in foster care. This year, 13 advanced practice professionals from across Moffitt Cancer Center formed a committee to help make spirits bright for the Foster Angels of Hillsborough County.
Together, with support from co-workers, patients, and community partners, they collected several thousand dollars to purchase hundreds of toys for those in need.
“I’ve met people who were part of the program as children and it always made their holiday season. That’s why I’m happy to help,” said physician assistant Danielle Laskowitz.
The foster children range in age from infants to 17-year-olds. They wished for everything from clothes to Xboxes, bikes to board games, Legos to iPhones, Barbies to Nintendo Switches.
APRN Lindsay Curtis was more than willing to get involved with the program. “This was such a great experience and I am thankful to have been able to contribute.”
Moffitt Cancer Center has supported the Foster Angels of Hillsborough County program for more than a decade.
Special thanks to Santa’s helpers Melissa Adams, Shaquonda Baker, Daly Belinc, Alicia Chin, Leslie Cosentino, Lindsay Curtis, Linda Maria De Zago, Candice Hallmon, Kristy Harvey, Kaitlin Hendrix, Michelle Jennings, Danielle Laskowitz, Kara Miller, Melissa Miller, Lauren Randall and Nina Wadhwa for all of their efforts coordinating the donation drive.