Last year Mackenzie Saunders, with the help of her friends and family, played the role of Santa Claus to 50 kids stuck in the hospital during the holidays. She hopes to re-create, and possibly grow, that number this season.

It has been almost two years to the day since Saunders, 13, was partially paralyzed as the result of a collision with another player during a soccer game. She spent that Christmas in the intensive care unit of Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa. It was around that time she had an unexpected visitor stop by her room and hand her a Nintendo DS.

"I had always wanted one," Saunders said. "Then, this girl I had never even met before just came by my room and gave me hers."

That girl was Hope Doyle. Doyle found her again a year later after hearing a news story about how Saunders was putting together a video game drive, called Sharing Hope, in her honor.

Saunders collected 50 game systems, like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP, and handed them out at Christmas time last year to kids at four different hospitals around the Valley. Donations came from her fellow students and community members.

"The coolest thing about Sharing Hope was watching the kids interact in the hospital," said Gary Saunders, Mackenzie's father. "We would go into their room and Mackenzie would give him or her the game, and you could just see both of their faces light up."

They received more donations than expected last year, and time became an issue to find homes for all the systems before Christmas.

"We were thinking, ‘How do we deliver all of these?'" she said. "But the nurses were the ones who really helped. They found us kids who would be stuck there during Christmas."

Saunders is currently collecting video games, which can be dropped off at her school, Kyrene Akimel A-al, 2720 E. Liberty Lane, or by contacting her through email, gasaunders@q.com, to arrange a drop-off time.

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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