The Jingle Bell Club is the singular vision of Dr. Sudhir Patel, a local neonatologist, who moved his practice to Bakersfield 13 years ago. One day, during the Christmas season, Dr. Patel was sharing his fondest childhood memories of ‘Christmases made Magical’ by local volunteer groups who brought puppet shows, rooms decorated with streamers, and balsa wood toys to his rural childhood home in England. He would cherish the small toy he received, always looking forward to the magic that the next year’s party would bring. From this conversation, it wasn’t long until Dr. Patel, and a very small group of neonatology practitioners (one respiratory therapist and 4 registered nurses) along with Dr. Patel’s wife, Nila, brought the first party to The College Heights first graders. College Heights School was chosen because of the impact it would have on the children.
Dr. Sudhir Patel
Teachers are involved and begin weeks in advance with special “assignments” that help determine shoe sizes for the kids. Each child receives a special gift, personalized stocking, stuffed with goodies, and a size specific pair of shoes. The gift of shoes were added the second year, after the group noticed many of the kid’s shoes were very worn.
Over the years, word has spread, and younger siblings anticipate the event! A few years ago, it was noticed that a few children were not opening their gifts. When asked “why?” they replied, my mom said to “…save it until Christmas morning, it will probably be the only gift you get.” So, while not every child in the group falls into that situation, there may be more than we know.
Dr. Patel has funded this effort largely on his own the last seven years. This year, as we kick-off Partini Fore the Kids, our first official fundraising effort, we hope to expand the Jingle Bell Club’s efforts to another East Bakersfield elementary school….and spread some more Christmas Magic!
When Dr. Patel was asked why first graders? He simply stated “because kids that age still believe. They still believe in the Magic that is Christmas, like I did and I want them to experience the magic and be happy, and have those memories, like I did, and still do. And if even two or three grow up and remember and spread the magic their own way, we will have been successful.”