URBANA–A Decatur student is turning her tragedy into a reason to create Christmas cheer and her classmates are helping her spread the holiday spirit.
Taylor Beck is no stranger to hospitals, but she's always managed to make it home for the holidays.
"I was in the hospital in the summertime, so I don't really know what it's like to be here for the holidays," said Beck, a senior at MacArthur High School. "But I can only imagine how that would feel not being able to be with all your family or friends."
When Beck was 15, she was seriously injured in a ziplining accident and the recovery she's made in the two and a half years since would not have been possible without stays at St. Mary's and Carle Foundation hospitals. So when she and her classmates in MacArthur High School's Career Association needed to come up with a community service project, Beck had a suggestion.
"I wanted to donate to teenagers specifically in hospitals," said Beck. "Because I know what it's like to be a teenager in the hospital."
"When people think of Christmas they usually think of little kids waking up on Christmas morning," said Doey Gordon, the child life coordinator at Carle Foundation Hospital. "But to be able to think beyond that and focus in on our teen population is really really important. Those kids are hurting just as bad."
The students threw fundraisers, bought age-appropriate gifts, hand-sewed stockings from scratch, and stuffed them full of presents. Then, they delivered them to area hospitals so that their teenage patients will have a deliver waiting for them on Christmas morning.
"We just wanted them to feel good and know that even strangers can still care about them," said Beck.
Because Beck will become one of them once again this summer, when she is readmitted to Carle for reconstructive surgery on her jaw, three years after the accidents that brought her there initially.
"I don't take things for granted so it's helped me grow as a person," said Beck. "And so I feel like giving back is helping me grow too. And making a difference in other people's lives and making them happier."