Christmas is supposed to be a carefree time for a kid, but for Egg Harbor City resident Jes Snider, the 2003 holiday season was anything but.
Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia the summer before, the then 8-year-old Snider spent five months in the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children's cancer center after a bone marrow transplant in late November.
While many would choose to forget this memory, Snider embraces it - and this year, he used it as motivation to give.
"I thought of a lot of the kids that would be in the hospital during the holidays," Snider, now 17 and almost 10 years cancer-free, said. "They would be sad because some of them weren't able to spend the holiday with family, so I thought to bring (them presents). I thought I might make some of them happy."
Armed with his desire to brighten the season for kids now in the same predicament he faced a decade before, Snider, a sophomore at Cedar Creek High School, organized a toy drive for children at Dupont. With the help of the faculty and staff at the school, Snider collected more than 100 toys.
Snider's mom, Silvia, to whom he first mentioned his idea shortly before Thanksgiving, said she's proud of her son.
"I feel overwhelmed," Silvia said. "He's a very giving individual, and he's been through a lot, but he never complains, and he's always willing to help. He's always got a smile."
Snider enlisted the aid of school social worker Maggie Holmes in putting the drive together. She put him in touch with step team advisor Danielle Maddrey, who asked each of her group's 40-plus members to bring in gifts. Snider's aunt, Cathy Walters, who works in the cafeteria, got her co-workers to pitch in. Students and staff also donated toys.
Holmes' office, collection point for the toy drop-off, quickly filled with donated items.
"My office was filled with presents," Holmes said. "You couldn't walk. That's how many presents we had. It was getting pretty bad - I couldn't get to my desk. It was lovely."
On Dec. 18, the toys were loaded into Holmes' and Snider's cars and driven to duPont, where Jes, his sister Julianna and their cousin, Ashley Walters, distributed the toys to the thankful children.
"It was really nice," Jes said. "Seeing a smile on their faces, it was really nice."
Cedar Creek is only in its third year of existence, but in that time it has become a close group, Holmes said, and its willingness to get involved is just one of many positives of being a Pirate.
"It's just typical Cedar Creek," Holmes said. "It's a real community school, really involved. I cry every time I think about it, because it just really shows what a wonderful, close-knit community the school is. I was really moved by it.
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