Grant Family Brings Holiday Cheer to Local Hospital

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – “Giving a blessing and being a blessing yields the greatest return- reciprocal love.”

The mantra has guided the actions of Sonya Grant and her husband Dennis for as long as they recall. Learning the incredible potency of putting others first early on, the City of Newburgh parents wanted to instill that same philanthropic quality in their three children: Ellyson, Sterling and Hanibal. Seeing the holiday season as a critical time when people need and craved altruistic gestures, the parental duo created an annual, Christmas-time family tradition of giving event: The Grant Family Christmas Holiday Tradition.

Friday marked its 10th consecutive year. The Tradition features the Grant family, clad in themed outfits (this year it was toy soldiers), dropping off an impressive amount of gifts for children/families in the Emergency Room as well as ones admitted in the Pediatrics Ward at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in the City of Newburgh. Thanks to the monetary contributions from an assortment of donors, the Grant children are able to go out and personally purchase the special presents for recipients ranging in age from newborn to teenagers. In addition to the presentation of the gifts, the family contingent typically sings Christmas Carols. However, due to the restraints imposed by the Pandemic, this year’s event was limited to a lobby gift under the Christmas Tree dropoff; hospital staff will ensure the gifts are given to the children. Despite the changes this year, the intent and feelings of each Grant member remain as strong as ever.

Sonya Grant, right, presents a couple with their newly born baby with a gift Friday morning at Montefiore St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh.
Sonya Grant, right, presents a couple with their newly born baby with a gift Friday morning at Montefiore St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh.

“When we created this tradition, we really wanted our children to understand the need and power of giving back to others,” explained Sonya, who pointed out the extra special meaning of giving during the holiday season to those in a hospital, “After a while, they were reminding me of how much it meant to do so, and they were starting to give back in different ways on their own.”

That contagious, “pay it forward” nature of thinking of others has also yielded personal growth.

“This event is a prominent thing in our family; I’ve really grown from being involved in this since I was eight years old,” said Sterling, who attends Manhattan College. “It’s made me really want to do more community service; I’ve brought suggestions to my former high school (Newburgh Free Academy) about how I can help other people.”

Her brothers, Ellyson (who has attended RIT college for two years) and Hanibal (an NFA senior), are both quick to cite the joy they feel when they see the looks in the children’s eyes upon receiving their gifts. Although this year’s event, once again held on Christmas Eve morning, did not allow that personal interaction, both young men continue to be inspired by the overall purpose and impact of the decade long tradition.

“It’s always so unfortunate to be hospitalized during Christmas,” said Hanibal. “At the same time though, it’s so nice to be able to help out and bring a smile to children’s faces.”

Their father, Dennis, has also been deeply touched by the powerful effects of the Christmas Eve family tradition whose rippling, heartfelt rewards are embedded with priceless lessons.
“People always talk about getting and consuming during Christmas,” said Dennis. “However, we wanted to flip it, and show it’s about giving and being consistent about it every year; that makes all the difference.”

The “difference” was undoubtedly felt last Friday morning in Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital’s lobby. As the Grant family, formally dressed in their distinct red and white holiday attire, dropped off an assortment of festively wrapped presents and placed them under the tree, some staff members, as well as hospital visitors looked on and wide smiles emerged.

“We are very appreciative of Sonya and her family for their generosity for so many years to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital,” said Kevin Venkatesh, Marketing Manager for Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall. “It truly brightens the day for our pediatric patients.”

Upon their departure from the Hospital, the Grant family lined up in perfect symmetrical fashion, marching off, fully energized and grateful for the opportunity, while contemplating ideas for their next giving community gesture.

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