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SPIRIT OF GIVING LIVES ON SANTAS, ELVES SPREAD JOY TO AILING CHILDREN.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

VAN NUYS - One Santa pulled at his paunch while another flocked his beard. And when the toyful saints went marching through Presbyterian Valley Hospital on Sunday, parents and children beamed.

'Twas an afternoon before Christmas made bright by a dozen Santas and their helpers, who handed bagfuls of gifts to bedbound children on the first stop of a tour of Valley and Los Angeles hospitals Sunday and today.

``OK, you guys want Christmas carols or presents?'' asked pediatric Dr. Rochelle Feldman, a Valley Presbyterian staff member who led the tour.

Like all the kids, Amanda Spagnolia, a 22-month-old redhead from Canyon Country taped up from a recent stomach operation, got both a bag and a jingle.

``The carolers are wonderful, because they cheer her up, and this (gift bag) cheers her up,'' said Amanda's mom, Carolyn Spagnolia. ``It's bright, because in six months she won't need any medicine and she'll be better.''

Hospital staff were elated to see the Santas and elves in fur hats and reindeer antlers.

``It is my fervent wish that every child be home for Christmas,'' Feldman said. ``But in lieu of that, I'd like them all to be well in time for next Christmas.''

Room by room they went. A gift bag here. A candy cane there. A wave and a smile. And with each visit a chorus of yuletide carol favorites.

It was hard to tell who was more uplifted - parents or their bedbound kids.

Kids born premature of the coming real millennium. Kids too sick for a visit from Santa. Or kids too fragile to return home for a Christmas holiday dinner.

``I think it's a very nice thing,'' said Maria Morales of Pacoima, whose 12-year-old son Mauricio lay struggling with pneumonia, of the roomful of visitors and gifts.

``Sickness does not have to be a lonely thing.''

Some kids had disorders so hopeless they may never see home again.

Trevor Garbe, 11, of Newhall struggled behind his oxygen mask as his therapist, Donn Sturgill, adjusted his bed. Trevor, who has a brain disorder similar to the disease made famous in the movie ``Lorenzo's Oil,'' is the oldest child in the world to have survived Krabbe's disease, according to Feldman.

``He has a lot of cheer; you can see it in his eyes,'' said Trevor's mother, Carol Garbe of Newhall. ``He's doing much, much better.''

Feldman's entourage included friends and family of patient Brittany Orvis, 3, of Granada Hills and medical associates. Following their visit to Valley Presbyterian, they brought bagfuls of toys to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.

Today they will do the same for hospitalized children in West Los Angeles. The gifts were made possible through corporate sponsors such as McDonald's, Jack-In-The-Box, Walgreens, Target, Pic 'N Save, Toys 'R' Us and Long's Drugs.

One Santa, (aka Roger Orvis, 40, of Granada Hills), sweating under his North Pole uniform in the sultry atmosphere of Valley Presbyterian's pediatric unit, expressed the sentiments of his troupe.

``We just hope and pray these children are better and enjoy a lot more Christmases to come.''

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Amanda Spagnolia, right, gets help from her mother, Carolyn, with a gift bag delivered by a Santa visiting Valley Presbyterian Hospital on Christmas Eve. Below, Dr. Rochelle Feldman aids Santa's helper Glennon Smith with his antlers before delivering gifts.

(3) Trevor Garbe, 11, who suffers from Krabbe's disease, is visited by Santa Claus at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 25, 2000
Words:586
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