Joan Whitaker has made a name for herself as Coventry’s very own Christmas miracle. Joan has spent every Christmas day for 23 years bringing festive cheer to poorly children at University Hospital and has brought joy to hundreds of children over the years.
Joan said: “Nobody wants to be stuck in hospital – especially not children at Christmas. Everyone outside it having a wonderful time and opening presents. But a lot of the children here worry that Santa won’t come because he always goes to their house. I’ve always seen it as my job to make sure Santa does come.”
53 year old Joan, who is a hospital play specialist, usually works until midnight on Christmas Eve and returns to work by 7.30am on Christmas morning. Her dedication means that she cannot go home to Shropshire on Christmas Eve and stays the night in Coventry.
Joan makes sure that the children wake up to pillow cases full of presents and often these pillow cases have a giant teddy at the top.
Joan then provides all of the families with drinks, Christmas cake and mince pies before they have a full Christmas dinner.
Joan said: “I don’t have kids to rush home to – this is my family. If the kids go home with smiles on their faces, that’s all that matters.”
In 2011, Joan also arranged a dream trip to Euro Disney for 27 of the children on the ward.
Thoughtful Joan buys hundreds of presents every year that are chosen with each individual child in mind.
Joan said: “I used to see those people fighting their way around Toys R Us on Christmas Eve and think they were mad. Now that’s me. I never work Boxing Day though. I normally spend it catching up on some much needed sleep.”
Joan’s heartwarming work is funded by donation from the public, businesses and the families of the ill children.
She said: “I’ve never really celebrated Christmas myself. By the time I have decorated all the Christmas trees here, the last thing I want to do is go home and do another one. My husband Stuart is great – he has never complained about what I do or being left out at Christmas.”