Like many 7-year-olds, Javien Ortega wanted a puppy or kitten for Christmas.
But Javien has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that affects his lungs, his mother, Sara Vidot of Reading, said, and a pet is not advisable.
Javien understood Santa might not be able to bring his heart’s desire. So in a letter to the jolly man in red, he wrote saying that if he couldn’t have a pet, he’d like $1,000 to be given to a homeless shelter instead.
Since Javien’s family volunteers at Opportunity House, he selected the emergency shelter in Reading as the beneficiary of his wish.
“He has always been a giving child,” Vidot said of Javien, a student at Lauer’s Park Elementary School, Reading.
Javien dropped the letter in a special red mailbox made for letters to Santa by the staff of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, where he was receiving treatment. His letter was intercepted by some of Santa’s helpers at the hospital, Vidot said. After reading it, they got in touch with Kate Alley, chief development officer at Opportunity House.
“Javien is just 7, but his huge, generous heart is much bigger than his years,” said Alley, who visited the boy Monday in the hospital, a partnership of Tower Health and Drexel University.
Alley credited Vidot with instilling the spirit of giving in her son.
“The family’s focus on giving is such a great reminder of the meaning of the season,” Alley said.
After more than two weeks of inpatient care, Javien was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.
Bidot said she is happy to have her younger son home, but her family’s Christmas will be bittersweet. Just as Javien was released from the hospital, his oldest sister was admitted.
Three of Vidot’s four children have cystic fibrosis, she said. Her daughters, 23 and 19, are affected, but another son, 15, is not.
The family’s strong faith helps them stay strong while dealing with frequent hospitalizations and treatments, she said.
“We live moment to moment,” Vidot said. “We have to enjoy each moment that we have together.”
A link to donate to Opportunity House and help fulfill Javien’s wish can be found at opphouse.org/donate/. As of Tuesday afternoon, $665 had been donated.