By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Children are incredibly resilient, but even a small toy can help the strongest kids through hard times. Carlos Santana and wife welcomed their baby girl on April 13 – three months early and three hours from home. The couple has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House, along with their two other children, ever since.

(credit: Santana family)

“We’re grateful they gave us a room so we can be together as a family. We basically don’t have to pay for anything,” said Santana. “The first day we were here, the kids received a package with coloring books, pencils, markers. They’ve been so welcoming.”

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His wife was airlifted from Glenwood Springs to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center after complications from her pregnancy turned severe. Their baby is still in the NICU at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. Their other two children have been by their side all summer.

“You’re in the hospital 24/7. You are thinking about the health of your wife, the health of the baby, the health of the other two kiddos,” said Santana. “You’re not thinking about buying a toy. It’s the last thing you are thinking about.”

Santana said his children have been missing their dog in Carbondale. A family member is taking care of the pet while the family is in Denver. Santana never expected his children would love their new stuffed animals as pets away from home.

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(credit: CBS)

“They treat it like a special toy. Those stuffed dogs come everywhere with them,” said Santana. “I think it helps them get their minds out of what exactly is happening.”

CBS4, KOSI 101.1 and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children are collecting stuffed animals for the Teddy Bear Patrol. The toys will go to local first responders or emergency teams to comfort children in a time of need. The smallest act of kindness can have the biggest impact.

“I encourage people to keep donating because these toys really helped get them through. Just this little toy has made their life easier and that makes us feel happier, too,” said Santana.

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CBS4 will be collecting new stuffed animals July 19 through Aug. 28.

Tori Mason