Love at a Christmas Tree Lighting Reaches Out to Change Boy’s Life
OZONE PARK — Seven-year-old Jefferson Rodriguez got an early Christmas present from Santa Claus on Saturday — one that brought a big smile to his face and tears of joy to his mother Roció’s eyes.
There, in a big box covered in bright red wrapping paper, was a new arm, and the start of a new life for little Jefferson.
The little boy, who hails from Ecuador and now lives in Corona, Queens, lost a portion of his left arm when he put his hand into a bread-making machine in his family’s bakery in Cuenca, Ecuador, at the age of 2-1/2.
But his story will have a happy ending, thanks to Glenn Easton, founder of the Centerpedes Center for Pediatric Therapy, Orthotics & Prosthetics, who donated a prosthetic arm to him.
Santa Claus presented the prosthetic arm to Jefferson onstage at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Living Word Living on Cross Bay Boulevard. As soon as the child ripped away the wrapping paper and eagerly opened the box, Easton helped him attach the new arm.
With his new limb in place, Jefferson raised both of his arms in triumph.
“I am so excited. This is a dream come true!” Roció Rodriguez said earlier in the evening as she and her son awaited the gift from Santa Claus. He arrived in style — riding in an FDNY fire truck with siren blaring.
The Rodriguezes made contact with Easton thanks to leaders of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association Inc., the group that sponsored Saturday’s Christmas tree lighting.
“We heard about the situation — that the boy needed an arm — from the family’s social worker. We put it up on our Facebook page. Glenn called right away and said he would donate the arm,” block association President Sam Esposito said.
“I came into this field to help people the best way I can. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to help this little boy,” said Easton. His medical business, established 30 years ago, has locations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Not only did Easton donate the prosthetic arm, but he said he also plans to give Jefferson a new arm each year for the next 11 years — until the boy turns 18.
Life up to now hasn’t been easy for Jefferson. From the age of 2, he has had to become accustomed to navigating with one arm.
His mother, who speaks only Spanish, said through an interpreter that her son has always felt self-conscious about his missing limb and, as a result, keeps to himself much of the time. “He goes out at night when there aren’t a lot of other kids around,” she said.
Still, Jefferson is a happy child with a ready smile and a lot of enthusiasm. When asked what other presents he wanted for Christmas, he answered, “A scooter!”
After bringing Easton and the Rodriguezes together, the block association made plans to schedule the presentation as part of the tree lighting. “We want to show people that we can come together in a time of sadness and division to help somebody turn their life around,” Esposito said.
Assistant NYPD Chief Ruben Beltran, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, said the tree lighting, which drew a large crowd, was a meaningful sign.
“It’s really reflective of being able to celebrate the holidays again after two years of the pandemic and the effects of the pandemic. And the donation of the prosthetic arm is a sign of how good things can come if we care for one another,” he said.