TAMPA, Fla. — For a child, going to a hospital isn't often a fun experience. It's cold, grown-ups are using big words you don't know — there are needles — and you may be there for longer than you'd like.
Mom and dad probably left the house in a hurry, without any toys or items of comfort. It's overwhelming.
That's where the Little Saint Nick Foundation comes in. The non-profit puts together gift bags for hospitalized children with the goal of making their stay a little bit better.
"It means everything to them," said Raymond Mohler, the organization's founder. "Our gift bags are given out right when a child enters the hospital, emergency department, or admissions department. It's that immediate relief of anxiety that's so crucial to their hospital stay."
Mohler created the Little Saint Nick Foundation after his own childhood hospitalization. After leaving the hospital, he wanted to give back to the kids he once shared a hallway with as a 4-year-old.
On his 5th birthday, which falls on Christmas Eve, Mohler asked his friends and family to collect gifts for hospitalized children in place of birthday and Christmas gifts. The tradition continued, and that's how the Little Saint Nick Foundation began.
Mohler has two offices for his foundation, one in New York, which he calls home, and the other is on the University of Tampa's campus, his alma mater.
Now, kids all across the Tampa Bay area are "Little Saint Nicks," too. Liam Eisele is one of them, recently fundraising and packing 121 bags to help 121 hospitalized children.
"The gift bags will make them happy and not scared," 7-year-old Liam said.
Each bag costs about $10 to make and includes a coloring book, coloring pencils, a stuffed animal, a pop-it and a handwritten note.
For Liam, the inspiration behind being a "Little Saint Nick" is his parents, both of whom are doctors. His mom, Dr. Jasmin Nuesa works in the emergency department of a New Port Richey hospital.
"We'd see that the kids are always scared and Liam would hear about stories and work and said he wanted to do something to help them," Nuesa said.
Liam shared his volunteer efforts with his class as a presentation.
"I'm super proud! He did such a good job, doing his presentation at school and he took initiative, he picked everything out. He ordered everything," Nuesa said.
The bags are delivered to Tampa Bay-area hospitals. And there is always a need for more.
"It makes me feel good because I helped sick kids in the hospital," Liam said.
So what's next for Liam? He's planning on recruiting his entire school to help more kids in the hospital.