ST. LOUIS -- When Gander Outdoors employee Darlene Hutton was working last month to collect toys and items for kids hospitalized at St. Louis Children's Hospital over Christmas, she had no idea that her efforts would impact at least two area youngsters.
In fact, one of those had already met Hutton during a visit to the drive in Marion.
"We're back again," said Jordan Murphy, whose son Remy is a familiar face to health care workers.
Five-year-old Remy, whose myriad medical issues make him susceptible to the RSV virus, spent several days, including Christmas, in the hospital.
"It was just the sweetest thing to see all that they have done," said Murphy, who sent photos to Hutton.
"She actually made my Christmas," said Hutton. "I shared the photos with my family. All my grandkids were here helping, selling baked goods and packing the unit."
The collections for the drive were packed into a mobile intensive care unit and transported to the hospital earlier this month.
Herrin teenager Jace Gray also spent his Christmas in the St. Louis hospital, fighting complications from treatment for a brain tumor.
"We woke up this morning to lots of Christmas gifts!" wrote Jace's mom, Kristen.
Jace received a soft blanket, ear buds, a Bluetooth speaker, a target gift card, as well as body spray and other hygiene items.
"This just blows my mind," said Kristen.
"It's Christmas and I'm trying to think of things to be thankful for ... it's hard ... but that was wonderful!"
Hutton said seeing the photos of kids on the receiving end of her efforts made her holiday special.
"That," she said, "was the best Christmas present I could have gotten."