Stewart Davis, 63, of Tampa, who is dressed as Santa, left, shares a moment with Lukas Yates, 8, of Ruskin, during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. About 50 Hillsborough County Public Schools students who are visually impaired returned to the event in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hillsborough visually impaired students celebrate holidays together

Hillsborough County Public Schools students gathered in person again for crafts and presents.
Stewart Davis, 63, of Tampa, who is dressed as Santa, left, shares a moment with Lukas Yates, 8, of Ruskin, during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. About 50 Hillsborough County Public Schools students who are visually impaired returned to the event in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
 
Hillsborough County Public Schools students gathered in person again for crafts and presents.
Published Dec. 8, 2022

The Lions Eye Institute for Transplant Research hosted Hillsborough County students for the first time in person again since the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 50 visually impaired children from first through fifth grades on Wednesday took part in the Holiday Hearts event.

“When I told Jesslin she was going to have a Christmas party with all the students of the visually impaired program she was so excited she said, ‘Mommy, they’re going to be just like me?’ so she’s really excited to be included and to not feel like such an outsider,” Andrea Hurt said about her 7-year-old daughter’s first time attending Holiday Hearts.

“For more than a decade the staff at the Lions Eye Institute has been supporting the VIP Christmas party,” Lions Eye CEO Jason Woody said. “For most of us, Christmas is truly a visual holiday. What if you did not know what Santa, Rudolph, or snow even looked like? Many of the children at the party have never known that, and we play just a small part in making this day magical for them.”

Santa distributed presents to children and two families received decorated Christmas trees.

Andrea Hurt, 41, and her daughter, Jesslin Hurt, 7, compete in a game called “snow shovel race,” where participants put on blind folds and use a spoon to fill their bowls with as many cotton balls as they can in under 30 seconds, at Holiday Hearts. The event, hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, took place at their Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Andrea Hurt, 41, and her daughter, Jesslin Hurt, 7, compete in a game called “snow shovel race,” where participants put on blind folds and use a spoon to fill their bowls with as many cotton balls as they can in under 30 seconds, at Holiday Hearts. The event, hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, took place at their Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Christopher Johnson, 15, left, guides Aviana Nelson, 10, of Tampa, after competing in a game called “snow shovel race,” where players wear blind folds and shovel as many cotton balls as they can to their bowls in under 30 seconds. The activity took place at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Christopher Johnson, 15, left, guides Aviana Nelson, 10, of Tampa, after competing in a game called “snow shovel race,” where players wear blind folds and shovel as many cotton balls as they can to their bowls in under 30 seconds. The activity took place at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Aviana Nelson, 10, left, of Tampa, shows a present to her aunt Nasai Nelson, right, during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Aviana Nelson, 10, left, of Tampa, shows a present to her aunt Nasai Nelson, right, during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Lukas Yates, 8, of Ruskin, and Sharon Boyes, who is the foundation executive director at Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, dance together during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted at the organization's Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Lukas Yates, 8, of Ruskin, and Sharon Boyes, who is the foundation executive director at Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, dance together during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted at the organization's Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
A student puts a Braille advent calendar in a bag during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
A student puts a Braille advent calendar in a bag during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Cassie Barbaresi, left, of Cassie Jean and the Fireflies, shares a moment with Manuel Martinez, 9, right, while performing “Feliz Navidad” together during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Cassie Barbaresi, left, of Cassie Jean and the Fireflies, shares a moment with Manuel Martinez, 9, right, while performing “Feliz Navidad” together during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Kelsey Belton, 6, of Tampa, grabs an ornament while guessing how many of them are in the jar upon arriving at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Kelsey Belton, 6, of Tampa, grabs an ornament while guessing how many of them are in the jar upon arriving at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Aviana Nelson, 10, of Tampa, left, smiles as Christopher Johnson, 15, center, meets her baby brother Elliott, 2 months, at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Aviana Nelson, 10, of Tampa, left, smiles as Christopher Johnson, 15, center, meets her baby brother Elliott, 2 months, at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Kelsey Belton, 6, left, and her father, Maurice Belton, 40, right, react after competing in a game called “snow shovel race,” where participants wear blind folds and shovel cotton balls into bowls in under 30 seconds. The activity took place at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Kelsey Belton, 6, left, and her father, Maurice Belton, 40, right, react after competing in a game called “snow shovel race,” where participants wear blind folds and shovel cotton balls into bowls in under 30 seconds. The activity took place at Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Kelsey Belton, 6, of Tampa, left, shares a moment with Stewart Davis, 63, of Tampa, who is dressed as Santa, while receiving her present during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Kelsey Belton, 6, of Tampa, left, shares a moment with Stewart Davis, 63, of Tampa, who is dressed as Santa, while receiving her present during Holiday Hearts, an event hosted by Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research at its Tampa center on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]