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Hospital social worker spreads Christmas cheer to needy kids

Hinsdale – She doesn’t wear a red and white suit nor chuckle, “Ho, ho, ho!” but Shelly Anderson makes Christmas a lot brighter for many local children. For the past 15 years, Anderson, a social worker at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, has arranged for Adventist Midwest Health employees to take part in the Community Nurse Health Association’s Secret Santa program.

“Children who receive their health care at the clinic for a year qualify to take part in the program,” said Anderson, a resident of La Grange Highlands. “They all get an outfit, everything from gloves and hats to underwear, pajamas, a book and a stuffed animal. In addition they get to make a wish list of things they would especially like for Christmas.”

La Grange-based Community Nurse Health Association provides quality, comprehensive health and human services to people in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Anderson’s job begins weeks before Thanksgiving when she e-mails Adventist Midwest Health’s nearly 5,000 employees that it’s time to play Santa again. Typically, a group of employees in a department or work group pool their personal funds to buy items for one child. Anderson estimates that employees spend approximately $200 per child and sometimes more when they choose to purchase extra special wish list items.

“I assign all the children,” Anderson said. “Then I make sure that everything on the wish lists has been purchased. I have to make arrangements for the gifts to be stored which requires a lot of space. Then the gifts are taken by our courier to the clinic. There are many people throughout the hospital that help make this possible including my very supportive boss.”

Her supervisor, Janet Simon, director of case management, calls Anderson an unsung hero.

“Shelly is the heart and soul of our Secret Santa program,” Simon said. “Her painstaking work makes sure every gift is appropriate and that each child’s list is complete. We couldn’t give so much without her tireless efforts and the generous donations of our employees.”

Anderson also has a supportive family. She assumes the extra work of coordinating, and buying for many children, at one of the busiest times of the year. Husband Mike helps out, as do their daughters, Emma, 14, and Althea, 7.

“Some of the children ask for a blanket, or bedding,” Anderson said. “You can see what the program means to them. This is a project that is very dear to my heart. I get very involved making sure every child’s Christmas is complete.”  

This year, employees from all four hospitals – Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital – adopted 72 children. The program serviced 750 children this year, an increase of 80 over last year. The medical staff of Adventist Hinsdale and Adventist La Grange Memorial hospitals also make a cash donation.

“The clinic has come to depend on us,” Anderson said. “They give us their special medical needs children. All of the little things that we do mean a great deal to these families.”


Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit


Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health,; 630-312-7508