- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Nyah Rowell remembers Christmas when she was five years old. Instead of gathering around a decorated Christmas tree to open presents, Rowell celebrated in the hospital.

On Christmas Eve that year, Rowell, now an eighth grader, was hospitalized with pneumonia and spent almost a week in the hospital.

“I remember it vividly,” she said. “I was ticked. I thought I wasn’t going to get my presents. I really wanted my presents.”

Her family improvised and opened gifts in the hospital, but Rowell remembers how it felt to be away from home at Christmas.

On Dec. 17, Rowell, who is the treasurer of the National Junior Honor Society at Florence Middle School, and other members of the honor club left about 25 gift bags at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. About the same number will be donated to the pediatric unit at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, and to Children of Alabama in Birmingham.

The club has more than 100 members. They shopped for and packed the gift bags for young patients who find themselves in hospital rooms during this festive time of year.

The bags were packed with Barbie dolls, coloring books, action figures, Teddy bears, puzzles, candy and snacks. There are bags packed for children from babies to teenagers.

“It makes you feel good knowing you can help someone else,” said Whitney Sharer, president of the club. “So many times we are focused on what we are getting or what we want, so this is a chance to do something for someone else.”

The day the group dropped gifts off at ECM Hospital, there were just two young patients, so the gift bags will be put back for children who come to the pediatric wing in the next few weeks.

Sandy Jones, charge nurse on ECM’s pediatric floor, said families who come in during the holidays are surprised to have a gift waiting on them.

“They really are surprised that at this time of the year, someone was thinking about them,” Jones said. “It gives the children something to do while we are working to get their information in the computer.”

Hunter Edens, a National Junior Honor Society member, came with the officers to deliver the gift bags because just a few weeks ago he was in one of the hospital rooms at ECM.

“I didn’t have anything to do,” Edens said. “It was really boring, so I wanted to bring (something) for someone else to do.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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