Haven patient Richard “Nico” Acosta-Ochoa Jr. was born in 2014 with a heart problem. His family relocated to North Central Florida to seek care at UF Health Shands Hospital. Over the years, his health has had ups and downs. After a recent decline, the family and their healthcare team chose to pursue hospice care, sharing that their goal for Nico was “to live out whatever time he has left at home and happy.”

The Lake City team, in conjunction with the Make a Difference Fund, provided Christmas for pediatric patient Nico Acosta-Ochoa, Jr. (pictured). Haven RN Cliff Neukam (also pictured) dressed up as Santa to deliver the gifts and visit with the family.

Nico’s RN case manager Constance Wilton said that, based on assessments from his care teams, this would likely be Nico’s last Christmas. He believes very much in Santa and she knew that Haven had to help make it an extra special holiday season. She reached out to the Make a Difference Fund for assistance paying for Nico’s Christmas list. The Make a Difference Fund is supported by contributions from Haven employees and exists to fulfill one-time, meaningful requests for Haven patients.

Nico, who keeps his hair long because he is “strong like Sampson in the Bible,” asked for two larger items (including a virtual reality camera to pair with his gaming system and an Iron Man game) and a handful of small items. Between the Make a Difference Fund, Haven staff and the community, the team was able to clear his list. Haven RN Cliff Neukam even dressed as Santa to deliver the gifts and visit with the family.

“When I met Nico, hearing his story broke my heart. As a mother, I could not imagine knowing this would likely be my son’s last Christmas. He had a few wants that were out of the family’s reach,” said Wilton. “I personally took private anonymous donations from friends and family for a sick child in need. I was so shocked at how, with such a small amount of information, people gave so generously! We were able to cover our sweet patient’s entire wish list, gifts for the other small child in the family that was currently in the home, and mom and dad. All the money that was left was used to buy gift cards to their favorite places, as well as gas and grocery cards to assist the family with other needs. My cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling so much and many tears were shed. In the weeks after Santa gave this sweet boy the most amazing Christmas of his life, he has talked about it many times during our visits. He says things like, ‘It was epic!’ It was his dream to get the Eiffel Tower Lego set and he has not wasted any time getting started on it. My heart was literally bursting at the seams for the friends and families that contributed as well as friends that donated through their businesses to make this possible! Thank you so much to everyone that helped, including the employees at SVEC in Live Oak, First Federal Bank in Lake City and Precision Auto in Live Oak. This was a truly humbling, heartwarming and happy moment that I will never in my life forget.”