BRADENTON — Conquistadors and a manatee brought holiday cheer and presents Friday to sick children at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
Maverick the Manatee, State College of Florida’s mascot, and the DeSoto Crewe stopped by the fourth-floor pediatric unit, to spread holiday cheer. It’s the first year SCF, which has graduated a number of the nurses at the hospital, delivered gifts and the sixth year the DeSoto Crewe has been involved. The crewe works with Overcome Birth Defects, a local nonprofit, to deliver the gifts.
“Every year I get emotional and I just want to cry,” said Christina Sisti, the organization’s founder [and wife of former Conquistador Historical Foundation chair, Ron Hernden]. “I’m able to give back, to be able to help a child, even if it’s just a teddy bear.”
Six-year-old Reign Ford, a Bradenton resident, grabbed an Elsa doll, from the Disney hit movie, “Frozen,” out from under the tree in the pediatric unit. When Maverick the Mascot gave her a little stuffed manatee as well, she extended Elsa’s doll arms out so she could hold the manatee and shyly thanked Maverick.
The mascot, whose identity is kept secret, wanted to cheer children who are struggling in the hospital during the holiday season.
C.J. Parsley, a Bradenton resident, was able to play peek-a-boo with Maverick. C.J. was
presented with a little manatee and a stuffed animal from the DeSoto princesses, who accompanied the conquistadors. He was celebrating his first birthday in the hospital Friday, said his parents, Casey Owens and Chris Parsley.
Saniyah Wilkerson, 2, whose mother was a patient, was able to meet the DeSoto princesses, have her photos taken and pick out a toy as well.
In addition to visiting the children at Manatee Memorial, Maverick the Manatee also visited Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Overcome Birth Defects also brings gifts to children at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Easter Seals. The children are always delighted to have a toy or some small gift to hold during treatment, Sisti said.
“It really does work,” Sisti said.