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Moffitt team members pose with gifts donations for local foster children

For Moffitt Cancer Center nurse practitioner Dalila Belinc, one of the best parts of Christmas morning is the excitement of her children waking up to see what Santa brought. But what if they awoke to find nothing under the tree? When she learned that’s a reality for many foster children in Hillsborough County, she set out to provide Christmas presents to as many foster children as possible through the Foster Angels of Hillsborough County.

It all began four years ago when Belinc watched someone pulling leftover names from the Foster Angels tree in the Moffitt cafeteria. She asked what was going to happen to those children and was told they wouldn’t be getting anything for Christmas. Her heart sank and she took all of the 28 tags that were left on the tree.

With the help of her Moffitt team members, all 28 children woke up Christmas morning with everything on their wish lists. The next year, she collected donations for 50 children. A year later, she helped 80 children. And this year, it was 50.

Each child receives many or all of the items on their wish list, which range from bicycles and Barbie dolls to computers and gaming systems. Belinc says the most important gift is that these children will have something to open under the tree.

Belinc believes it’s not about what’s under the tree on Christmas morning, it’s about who’s around it. “But these children have gone through so much. It’s nice to give them presents to open.”

Over the years, the number of people wanting to help has grown. She even brought the Angel Tree wish list to the Gastrointestinal Oncology Clinic holiday party where her colleagues happily helped her mission. She says Moffitt team members Candice Hallmon, Marilyn Sobel, Whitney Ray and Melissa Miller were a huge help this year.  However, this would not have been possible without the help of multiple Moffitt team members in various departments, “which I am very grateful for,” Belinc says.

Since many people like to shop for babies and little children, Belinc tries to make sure the teenagers get covered. They tend to want more expensive items, which can make it difficult to fulfill their wish lists. However, she still seems to find those willing to help out.

So why does Belinc do all of this? “My mother was a very giving, loving person,” Belinc says.  “She always went above and beyond to help other people.  Every day I try to be a little more like her.”

Many Moffitt team members and departments purchase presents for the Foster Angels. Moffitt has taken part in the Hillsborough Foster Angel Program for more than 10 years.