The Gift of Candy Cane Lane

The joy was palpable

For five days in our new community outreach center (Dec. 12-16), Candy Cane Lane, the Floating Hospital’s annual holiday event, hosted 770 family members, providing hundreds of gifts each day, including toys, games, gift-cards, pajamas and desperately needed winter clothing.

Cynthia Davis, director of community outreach, her dedicated staff and many enthusiastic volunteers worked tirelessly to bring cheer to each family individually, creating an intimate holiday experience. Everyone, down to small children, had a personal shopper who helped them choose the perfect items and pack them up. The children, wide-eyed and excited, scrambled among the tower of toys and the vast array of other gifts.

We also took Candy Cane Lane to the Urban Women Safe Haven domestic violence shelter on December 20. The Floating Hospital is the only organization providing healthcare services to every domestic violence safe house in New York City.

More than $300,000 in-kind donations came from board members, individuals, community organizations, corporations, and the Floating Hospital staff. And this year we received another gracious donation from Aya Cifuentes, our youngest donor, who has been fundraising for Candy Cane Lane since she was eight years old by selling crocheted stars; her proceeds go to ensure many of New York’s impoverished children receive holiday gifts.

This year, volunteers were more important than ever.

Sixty-two volunteers helped make Candy Cane Lane a joyful success. Among our volunteer corps, Floating Hospital board members guided families through the free gifting experience. Foundation board chair Joan Brancaccio brought 14 colleagues from Wells Fargo onboard, who helped set up our festive Candy Cane Lane display and helped in our education classroom for a day. Foundation board member Charlene Prounis helped families choose the perfect gift—as she has done year after year. Project Sunshine volunteers entertained children with crafting, snacks, and games throughout the week.

In this spirit, other volunteers expressed a determination to learn Spanish in order to better communicate with our Latino patient families next year. One United Nations Federal Credit Union volunteer said, “Candy Cane Lane has inspired me to take advantage of the language-learning app available at work.”

Speaking on behalf of the community volunteer group he organized, Floating Hospital Community Liaison, Janckfre Arevalo said: “We were honored to share love and joy with the families. The experience reminded me how grateful I am for every little gift life offers.”

Board member Doug Seidman, a retired Legal Aid Society attorney, was a big hit with many of the migrant children who spoke only Spanish. “In my Legal Aid years,” reflected Seidman, “even though we had translators, clients always trusted and relaxed more with those who spoke their language.”

The sheer spirit of kindness generated by the staff and volunteers brought a warmth to the event that goes beyond words. “It’s infectious,” said Seidman.

“Candy Cane Lane has become part of our DNA,” emphasized Cynthia Davis. “The joy and innocence seen in the faces of the children receiving gifts left a lasting imprint on everyone. And the memory these kids took with them has the potential to be life-changing.”

Cynthia summed up the spirit of these five days: “Ultimately the gift of Candy Cane Lane offers mothers and children a respite from a hard reality to discover the true symbol of love: ‘the gift of giving.’”

This post featured in our monthly newsletter from January/February 2023.

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The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.


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