When Abbigail Taylor of Wichita found $68 on the ground at a church softball game this summer, she never considered spending it.
Not on candy.
Not on toys.
Not on a new bike or clothes or video games.
She and her parents turned the money over to church officials, figuring someone would reclaim their missing cash. When nobody did, 9-year-old Abbi, a fourth-grader at Chisholm Trail Elementary, got the money back and decided to spend it after all — on other children.
"Some parents pay so much on medical bills, they might not get a present" for their children for Christmas, Abbi said. "It would be devastating to have to tell a kid that Santa's not coming."
On Tuesday, after Abbi's $68 grew to more than $900 in contributions and donated toys, Abbi got to play Santa to young patients at Wesley Medical Center.
"I was so touched by Abbigail's generosity," said Jennifer Nolte, communications manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Wichita, which works with Wesley to serve hospitalized children and their families.
"During this Christmas season, it can be so much about getting," she said. "She's a true example of the Christmas spirit and of giving to others."
Inspired by Abbi's wish to buy toys for sick children, her parents, Kim and Doug, matched the original amount. Her grandparents kicked in another $68. So did her dad's boss at Fairbank Equipment.
Other people and businesses made donations as well, bringing Abbi's total to $450. Then Imagine That Toys, a Wichita toy store, pledged to double all donations toward the purchase of toys.
So Tuesday morning, Abbi and her 8-year-old sister, Jordan, went on a $900 shopping spree. In about an hour, they filled shopping bags with Legos, art supplies, stuffed toys, battery-operated voice changers —"The nurses are going to love that," Doug Taylor said, chuckling — and more, then delivered them to a playroom in Wesley's pediatric unit.
J.C. Delamore, a 6-year-old boy with leukemia who was hospitalized with pneumonia, got Abbi's first gift: a colorful plastic sphere that folds and expands like a geodesic dome.
The boy smiled, folding and unfolding the sphere, at times climbing inside of it or putting it on his head.
"Look," said his mother, Angie, smiling beneath her surgical mask. "You're a porcupine!"
Abbi and Jordan continued to hand out bags of toys — a tub of Legos for 5-year-old Damien Billington, a coloring book and pencils for Kaiden James, that voice changer machine for Kiandon Kirk.
"Voice changer!" said Syri Tegethoff, a patient activity specialist who was monitoring the playroom. "I don't know if I like you any more, Abbi."
So Abbi's dad was right. But everyone was smiling, including Tegethoff, who swiftly opened the gadget and installed batteries. Kiandon handed it to his mom, who said his name over and over with her new robotic voice.
Abbi said inspiring others, collecting money and delivering toys to the hospital "made my Christmas wish come true."
"This was the best Christmas present ever," she said.