Before the season slips too far away, I want to share a heartwarming story that truly captures the meaning of the holidays.

In October, Elyse Hockaday, 9, of Pleasanton, developed a medical condition associated with her immune system that caused her to miss several weeks of school and for which she was referred to the pediatrics ward at UCSF Children's Hospital.

During her treatment in San Francisco, she grew concerned that many of the sick children whose conditions required extended stays might not receive gifts or experience the full joy of Christmas.

"Elyse wanted to turn her illness into a blessing," said her mother, Naraya Hockaday. "She wanted to give these children hope."

So Elyse, determined to make sure the children would receive toys on Christmas morning, began a toy drive.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, several events contributed to the campaign. After hearing about Elyse's idea, Vintage Hills Elementary School teacher Kerry King rallied students to hold a bake sale and sell ornaments in order to buy toys. Similarly, employees at Pleasanton's Segue Construction brought a toy when attending the company holiday party. Finally, neighbors and friends of the Hockadays also donated toys and money. All told, on Dec. 19, the family delivered more than 300 toys to benefit the young patients at the hospital.

"I'm so proud of my granddaughter," said Grisell Navas, who brought this story to our attention at the newspaper.


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Navas said that even when Elyse attended a performance of the Nutcracker with her family and was given a free teddy bear, she immediately thought of the children.

"She was so excited," said Navas. "When Elyse told me the bear would be one more gift for the kids, I just wanted to hug her."

Thanks to Elyse for caring about other children even when she herself was not feeling well. This is the spirit of the holidays that gives all of us hope as we begin this new year.

KNOW A WINNER?: The Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for businesses, nonprofit groups and individuals who have made a significant contribution to the city. The awards will be presented March 19 at Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center.

This year marks the 51st Community Service Awards event and ceremony. Over the years, hundreds of well-deserving companies, nonprofits and individuals have received these prestigious awards.

The five award categories are Business Philanthropy, Excellence in Business, Excellence in Service, Distinguished Individual and Green Service.

Last year's recipients, respectively, were 1st United Services Credit Union; Simpson Strong-Tie; Volunteers in Police Service; Debi Covello; and The Clorox Co. and Café Main were co-winners in the Green Service category.

Nominations are being accepted from the public and are due Jan. 17. Forms and submission instructions are available at www.pleasanton.org or by visiting the chamber office, 777 Peters Ave.

Contact Jim Ott at jimott@sbcglobal.net.