Colorado

Dec 24, 2009 9:48 PM by News First 5

Christmas comes early for families at Ronald McDonald house

A big pile of gifts surround a young woman with a big heart.

"It doesn't take a lot to make a big difference," said 21-year-old Chelsea Smith.

But Smith's heart also made her quite sick as a baby.  "I actually had open heart surgery at 3 months and that was the first time they stayed here for that reason," she said.

She was diagnosed with a heart problem called mitro valve prolapse. It meant countless surgeries, a pace maker -- and her first Christmas spent at the hospital.

Though she's too young to remember, it's a time her family will never forget. They lived at the Ronald McDonald house for several months. "It was a tough time but the organization made it very good for us," said Randy Smith, her father.

To say thanks, Chelsea and her family took on a big project. Instead of giving each other gifts this year, they bought them for all of the families staying at the Ronald McDonald house in the Springs.  "The families need a lot of help during times like this," she said.

They bought everything from toys to toiletries, even gift cards for dinner. Friends pitched in. Many things were donated.  "Just try to bring as much normalcy to Christmas despite the situation," she said.

It's an act of kindness from a family forever thankful for the kindness of others.

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