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A small token makes a big difference for thousands who spend their holidays in the hospital

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Dec 03, 2020

College of Lake County (CLC) student Elizabeth Elliott knows what it’s like to spend time in the hospital. Ten years ago, she began unexpectedly passing out. Her doctors identified the cause as extremely high blood pressure but have been unable to cure her. 

Photo of Elizabeth Elliott“I’ve got to keep going. I do iron transfusions frequently, blood tests all the time, heart tests all the time, my full range of doctors,” said Elliott (right). “Physically I still have my challenges. I can’t drive and taking the bus, even an ADA bus, it’s very risky.” 

She doesn’t let any of that stop her from living life. Shortly after being diagnosed in 2010 while living in Florida, she returned home to Grayslake and enrolled at CLC. 

“I’ve always attributed CLC to pretty much saving my life,” said Elliott. “I couldn’t drive, and I was in and out of the hospital every week. I just felt like I had lost everything so going to school was kind of my normalcy. Being around people, getting my brain functioning rather than just lying in bed and being sick.”  

Professors, such as Nancy Cook, noticed her enthusiasm and the challenges she constantly overcame which were possible thanks in part to the assistance from CLC’s office for students with disabilities. “She would call or text me after a seizure, multiple hospitalizations and infusion sessions explaining her situation,” said Cook. “I frankly do not know how she keeps smiling while also doing more than her share of the work. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Elizabeth.” 

Boxed OrnamentsThat admiration only grows when Cook talks about Elliott’s annual project. 12 years ago, she started HOPE Ornaments, a non-profit dedicated to providing an ornament to those in a hospital or assisted living facility during the holidays. Elliott was inspired after giving an ornament to a six-year-old girl battling leukemia in the hospital Christmas Eve, 2007. This year, however, will be unlike any she’s ever experienced. 

Kid Ornaments“It’s hard enough being in a hospital even when you can have visitors but this year, they can’t have visitors,” said Elliott. “I can’t imagine waking up Christmas morning and having no one by my side. It breaks my heart to think there’s going to be 60,000 some people in Illinois who are going to have to experience that.”

Photos: some of the ornaments donated this year

That estimate of people in the hospital over the holidays is approximately three times higher than a normal year. What’s worse, on average Elliott collects 8,000 ornaments but this year only around 2,000 have been donated. Still, it’s a better situation than she expected. 

Ornaments“I was worried that HOPE Ornaments was not going to take place this but, the hospitals reached out to me,” said Elliott. “They've seen in the past what a difference it makes in people’s lives and so they really wanted the ornaments.”  

Elliott hopes to collect 5,000 ornaments this year which she has to deliver to the 26 hospitals and assisted living facilities she serves by Dec. 15 so they can go through their own quarantine. She is specifically asking for unopened, purchased ornaments as a health precaution, or a monetary donation so she can purchase the ornaments. See some of what she’s collected so far and learn how to donate by visiting her Facebook page

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.