Santa Joe McGee’s Visit Brings Joy to Pediatric Patients
An annual tradition returned last December at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute after a three-year pause due to COVID-19. The Institute hosted a holiday party for the children who are here for cancer treatment and their siblings. The main attraction of the event is an appearance from Santa Joe.
Joe McGee, who was treated for prostate cancer at the Institute more than 10 years ago, was inspired to be a Santa at that time by the children at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute who were being treated for cancer. He also was inspired by the memory of his brother who passed away in 2010 and who was the “original” Santa in his family. As a proton alum, he has generously made a special visit each December since 2013 to hear the children’s Christmas wishes and deliver presents.
This year, gifts were provided through the generous donations from staff, the Rare Breed Motorcycle Club Jacksonville and Reba Barkley, Davidson Realty. Since 2016, Rare Breed has donated toys and gift cards as requested from each child and their family. On the group’s Facebook page, one member posted, “…The looks on the families’ faces today when receiving those gifts from Santa were priceless. As I was playing with one of the children from the Middle East who was receiving treatment, all I could think was for the little time we were building blocks and playing with Play-Doh, he was carefree from thinking about any sickness or pain that he was experiencing due to his current illness.” Realtor Reba Barkley made a donation of toys and gifts on behalf of friends, customers and community members who contributed to the cause.
Joe is the real deal. As a professional Santa in the Atlanta area, he sets aside the proceeds from his appearances to deliver a donation to benefit the pediatric program through the UFPTI for the Children Fund. He and his wife Dawn have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Institute from their professional Santa and Mrs. Claus appearances. They split their donation between the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.
These acts of generosity inspire the community to give. And the good they do is immeasurable. As Dr. Danny Indelicato said in an interview about the event in The Florida Times-Union, “Santa Joe … walks into the building and all this worry and discomfort fall away. There is smiling, and there is laughing. There is friendship, familiarity and community. It’s transformative. And I’m grateful to just stand aside and watch.”