Hospital cafeteria worker earns overtime all year to buy presents for sick kids

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PARK RIDGE -- Around 3,000 toys were dropped off at Advocate Children’s Hospital Tuesday, thanks to a hospital cafeteria worker who puts in overtime all year to brighten the holidays for sick kids.

Jessie Tendayi has been collecting toys in her home since Thanksgiving, preparing to spread joy to sick children like she has every Christmas since 2009. During the year, she works overtime and extra days to pay for the toys. She spent $5,000 of her own money this year, and Toys “R” Us matched it so she could buy even more presents.

"I just decided one day to sacrifice, to stay at work," Tendayi said. "My job is to give joy to the kids."

The presents will go to 40 children at the hospital this year, including 10-month-old Declan, and four-year-old Olivia, who are patients at  Advocate.

Some of the presents will be saved and given out at the hospital throughout the year, while half will be sent to children in Puerto Rico who are still recovering after Hurricane Maria.

"They are sick. They are hopeless. So we are there to lift them up with whatever means you can do," Tendayi said.