Local children’s hospital serves up food and joy on Thanksgiving

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CHICAGO -- In 1960, La Rabida Children's Hospital hosted its first Thanksgiving feast. The patients and their families dined on a meal whipped up by a professional chef. Fifty-five years later the tradition continues, all thanks to generous chefs and volunteers.

"We were invited to come and it’s really good, especially the dressing. That’s the main reason why I come is because of the dressing," said Robinette Mattox, whose grandson Victor receives outpatient care for complications from low birth rate.

The Pineda family also dined at the hospital. Oscar, 14, suffers from cerebral palsy. His sister, Yessica, told WGN dinner at the hospital is just like being home.

"In a way it’s the same because we’re all here as family and I guess that’s what makes Thanksgiving," she said.

For some patients, it was a bit more challenging making it downstairs to the dining room. Patients like 1-year-old Jocelyn, who is receiving inpatient care for Hirschsprung disease. She really loved WGN's microphone.

Today, Jocelyn and her mother Melissa Benson grabbed a quick meal.

"She ate which was really good because she’s really been having a hard time eating but she ate really good," Benson said. "I think it’s really nice because we don’t get to be home with our families. We have to be here with our kids so it’s really nice. We get to enjoy ourselves."

Every year cooks with the ACF Chicago Chefs of Cuisine volunteers to make these families meals. In addition, about 100 volunteers from Church of Christ helped out with Thursday's event.

"You walk in here and there are no sad faces. There’s no crying on Thanksgiving. Everyone is so happy and there’s smiling. Everyone is full of joy and full of love," said Janet Haines, vice president of fundraising at La Rabida.