John F. Kennedy Catholic High School 2008 graduate Sam Morales knows what it’s like to celebrate Christmas from inside a hospital. She remembers being there with her brother Nolan Morales while he was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Nolan died during in January of 2005, but his sister still recalls how nice it felt to be surprised by Samaritans delivering presents to the hospital on Christmas.
For the past four years, she and her boyfriend Ryan Silberquit have been doing their part to bring a little bit of Christmas to children in local hospitals.
It all began when Morales and Silberquit visited the Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Danbury Fair Mall on Christmas Eve. Instead of bringing their cuddly creature home, they went to the Putnam Hospital Center to find someone in need of holiday hugs.
"The nurses were thrilled and delivered it to whoever was admitted there that night," Morales said. "From that point on, we decided it was something we wanted to do every year."
Last Christmas, they extended the invitation to friends and hoped to end up with 10 bears. Their charity was rewarded with almost 20, plus other kid-friendly toys and games, which were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital. This year, the couple is building toward a goal of 40 bears that can be delivered to multiple area hospitals.
Morales and Silberquit look to gather friends and family together on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at the Danbury Fair Mall Build-A-Bear Workshop store to stuff their holiday spirit into what they are calling 'Cubs for Christmas." Less than 24 hours after creating a Facebook event, 22 people had already signed up for bear building.
"While I never taught Sam, I am incredibly proud that our alumni continue to act with courage and compassion," said the Rev. Mark Vaillancourt, president of Kennedy. "She has turned a difficult personal memory into a positive Christmas for area children."