For 25 years, Currey Gayle has brought the magic of Santa Claus to kids in the Day Rehabilitation Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
The Day Rehabilitation Program is offered at the children’s hospital located at 1001 Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs. It allows pediatric patients with debilitating injuries or illnesses to come to a school-style environment five days a week. Instead of going to math or English class, they instead move throughout the day from occupational therapy, to physical therapy, to speech therapy and more.
Gayle works with the staff at Children’s to find out what items are on each patient’s wish list and then he raises the funds to purchase the gifts so Santa can deliver them.
The Day Rehabilitation therapists help the children fill out wish lists in the form of a letter to Santa, according to case manager Lainie Palefsky. When Santa comes, each of the children takes a turn sitting with him and he talks to them about the accomplishments they have made in therapy. Then he presents them with gifts they requested.
“It is amazing to watch,” Palefsky said in a press release. “We treat kids from 4 to 21 years of age, and it is magical even to the teens who have long stopped believing.”
Gayle said that Santa visiting these patients is his way of bringing them some holiday magic while also encouraging them to continue to work hard through the obstacles they are facing.
“I want them to know that I know it’s difficult but try to encourage them so they can keep working on those things that they’re working on in rehab,” Gayle said in the release.
Being Santa Claus is part of Gayle’s family heritage. Decades ago, his grandfather would enlist switchboard operators to help him call children as Santa on Christmas Eve. Then, Gayle’s father took on the calls.
Gayle first became Santa when his father came down with laryngitis one year and was unable to make the calls himself. When the opportunity came for Santa to visit patients at Children’s, Gayle knew it was something that would become his new holiday tradition.
“I like to think I brighten their day, but they make my Christmas,” Gayle said in the release.