This year Linda and Rich White of Highland Heights would have celebrated their eldest son’s 25th birthday. Instead, they celebrated a different milestone – their 20th Christmas party at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital held Monday, Dec. 3.
Since 1992 the Whites have been showering gifts on pediatric patients. This year 61 children, who are hematology and oncology patients at the Children's Hospital, had their Christmas list fulfilled by the Richie White Foundation.
The foundation was established to honor their son Richie White, who died in Sept. 1991 from a brain tumor when he was four years old. The Whites spent 18 months by his side as he struggled through 13 surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. Linda saw the toll having a chronically ill child in the hospital can have on a family.
When Richie passed, she wanted to do something positive to impact the lives of sick children and their families.
“I wanted to make the kids smile,” she said.
Linda, Rich and their two children, Christina, 23, and Nicholas, 19, run the Richie White Foundation with the support of Linda's brother and sister-in-law John and Debbie Voso of Sagamore Hills.
The nonprofit funds the annual Christmas party for the hematology and oncology patients at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.
For this year's event the Whites, along with friends, family and community supporters, raised approximately $14,000 for the party to purchase the more than 80 gifts for the children. Giant Eagle also donated food for the party.
The whole family pitched in to make the party a success. Christina and Nicholas helped with shopping, and Rich’s brother, Joe White, dressed up as Santa.
When the Whites started out in 1992, the pediatric patients would receive gifts they requested at a $100 limit. Now the sky’s the limit, said Linda.
“We buy them whatever they want,” she said. “When your child smiles for five minutes, it makes your whole day.” For this reason the cost is worth, she said.
The Whites also buy presents for the patients’ brothers, sisters and sometimes for the parents, too.