The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 24, 2012

Family: Son’s Christmas fundraiser has been a highlight of holidays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last Thursday’s trip was more of a chore than usual for the Vocelka family.

As winter decided to rear its head and throw down a blanket of snow and ice across northern Missouri and the Midwest, the Vocelkas — Ron, Sherry and 17-year-old Cooper — were stuck for an hour in their SUV on Interstate 49 in Kansas City, just miles away from Children’s Mercy Hospital. A trip that usually takes two hours took more than four, because of the weather.

Once Cooper arrived for his appointment, another delay surfaced: The doctor wanted to check some swelling in his foot. The day ended with the family driving back to its Carl Junction home.

But one chore made the trip worth it.

In the back of the SUV was a load of about $1,600 worth of presents for children and teens. They were donated to Cooper by students at Joplin High School, so that he could give them to patients at the hospital.

“We’re pretty low-key on Christmas, as far as exchanging presents,” Ron Vocelka said. “In the spirit of the season, this is something Cooper felt he could do.”

It took three hospital employees to haul in the load that the Vocelkas delivered Thursday. Boxes of toys included cars, dolls, coloring books, games and puzzles. Several of the boxes also had presents for older children, things such as earbuds, nail polish, teen magazines and movies.

“They have a lot of teens here, and they are harder to provide for,” Ron Vocelka said. “They don’t want the kiddie toys anymore.”

The donation was appreciated; though the winter weather chilled them, the employees said the boxes of toys warmed their hearts.

“We have a majority of patients who can’t go home for Christmas,” said Jessica Salazar, media relations manager for the hospital. “They have to spend it here, and these donations help us make sure they have a good Christmas.”

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