“Whoville” Christmas Party spreads holiday cheer for Niswonger cancer patients


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) The “Whoville” Christmas Party made sure Tri-Cities children with cancer and their families felt warm with holiday cheer Saturday, December 5.

The sixth annual party was held at the Johnson City Country Club. Volunteers dressed up as character’s from Dr. Seus’ “Whoville” from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Even the Grinch himself passed out gifts to around 60 kids from the St. Jude affiliate at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

The families made stops along the drive-thru getting a desert, a full Christmas meal, a personalized gift and a chance to play games right from their car.

Organizer Amber Vess says though the have this party every year, it has never looked like this. They moved to a drive-thru celebration this year in light of the pandemic to keep the children and their families safe.

They saw “Whoville” as the perfect, smile-inducing inspiration.

“These kids spend a lot of time in the hospital, going through treatment, things like that. Getting outside the walls of the hospital as a family event means a lot. I know because my daughter had cancer. She fought cancer from the time she was 10 to 18 when she passed away,” said Amber Vess.

This is all in memory of Megan Vess who died from brain cancer in May. She was a North Carolina local who spent most of her young life receiving treatment at Niswonger in Johnson City. Megan knew at a young age she wanted to give back to others like her.

“She was the heart and soul behind this and being able to continue that means a lot to me,” said Amber Vess.

While Megan was alive, she and her family started the non-profit “Hoof prints for hope,” taking miniature horses to visit cancer patients. The Christmas party was another way to bring cheer and smiles to families of the St. Jude affiliate unit at Niswonger.

Megan’s mother Amber said the pandemic could not stop her from holding the event this year, and nothing will for years to come.

If you would like to get involved with Hoof prints for hope contact Amber Vess at 423-512-1146.

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