Meggan Oates was only seven years old when her sister Jessica passed away from neuroblastoma.
Meggan Oates and Santa Claus will be bringing Christmas to children at the Janeway Children’s Hospital this year in honour of her late sister Jessica and the generosity of hundreds of people in the region. — Compass file photo
Since that tragic period, Meggan has been looking for the perfect way to honour Jessica’s memory.
“I wanted to do something in her memory, but I wasn’t sure what,” said Meggan. “I had wanted to do something for a couple of years.”
At the end of October, the 21-year-old Carbonear native found the perfect way.
It was while at work at Ameco Services when a light bulb went on.
“I just sat down at work and decided I wanted to do something for kids besides raising money, because I’m not really into that,” said Meggan.
The Oates family had regularly made donations to the Janeway since Jessica’s passing in 1999, however Meggan was looking for something more immediate.
What she settled on may have had a more profound effect than raising money.
Meggan came up with the idea of collecting gifts for children at the Janeway Children’s Hospital and the nursery at the Carbonear Hospital.
A plaque is also being given in Jessica’s honour. The family has collected $1,000 in donations and $300 in McDonald’s gift cards.
Goal in hand, Meggan started approaching her family and friends for donations.
What she received was better than she could have imagined.
As of Dec. 4, Meggan had collected over 200 gifts, and they were still coming in prior to her visit to the Janeway on Dec. 5.
“They’ve been really supportive,” she said.
What makes the hundreds of gifts that more special is the amount of time Meggan and her family have been collecting gifts.
It’s only been a little over a month since they’ve been collecting.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Meggan.
Since starting, it has been a month of Christmas paper and scotch tape for Meggan and her mother Christine.
When they started, people were not just dropping off one gift.
“They were bringing five or six gifts,” said Christine.
I just sat down at work and decided I wanted to do something for kids besides raising money. Meggan Oates
A magical memory
The event is being called Jessica’s Magical Christmas Memorial.
“I just put the name together,” said Meggan.
She said the plan is too make the memorial an annual event.
When Meggan and Christine informed the Janeway of their intentions, the person on the other end could not hide her emotion.
“She cried on the phone,” said Christine.
Jessica was born on Feb. 24, 1996.
When she passed away, it was just under a month until her third birthday.
One thing sticks out for Meggan when she remembers her sister.
“She was energetic,” she said.
“She was always smiling,” added Christine.
Jessica spent her last Christmas at the Janeway, and this is part of the reason the gifts are being donated to the children who are staying there.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Christine.
Pulling them away
Christmas is about spending time with family and cherishing those moments.
More often than not, the children at the Janeway spend Christmas differently. They spend time with family, but it is in a hospital bed.
On Dec. 5, Christine and Meggan brought Santa Claus with them, and wore red Santa hats.
“I want to make it a happy day,” said Meggan. “As hard as it is going to be, it is going to be a happy day.”
“We can cry after,” added Christine. “Whatever we can do to pull them out of that environment.”
When asked what Jessica would have thought of what her big sister was doing in her memory, Christine had a simple response.
“She’d be very proud.”