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Hilltop patients get a dose of holiday happiness

Mr. and Mrs. Claus took some time out of their busy holiday agenda to visit the children and staff of Northwoods at Hilltop Health Systems in Niskayuna on Sunday, Dec. 7. They delivered gifts to more than 20 pediatric patients there.

The children were also given a holiday party, featuring a performance by the Zucchini Brothers, funded by business owner and philanthropist David Silipigno, founder of the David P. Silipigno Foundation. The Silipigno Foundation's involvement with Northwoods began over the summer.

Back in June we had a patient who had grown up here until the age of 7. We had tried to raise money to pay for a funeral for her because one of the nurses had been fostering her since she was a foster child, said Michelle Durling, pediatric nurse manager for Northwoods at Hilltop.

Durling said the child was going to have to be buried in a county grave, but she and others from Northwooods appealed to the media to help them raise money for her funeral. The David P. Silipigno Foundation heard about Northwoods through the grapevine and contacted Durling about donating money for the cause, but by the time he did, they had already raised the necessary funds. Silipigno said he still wanted to help.

"On this year, in this very difficult economy, I really wanted to find a cause that spoke to me unlike any other year. The day I stepped foot into Northwoods, I knew I found the right place. I can think of no other group of children more in need, and no other dedicated staff more deserving of this special day," said Silipigno in a written statement.

The facility provides rehabilitation and living accommodations for children with special needs, many of whom live without a traditional family or means of income. Established in 1989, Northwoods at Hilltop's pediatric unit is a 24-hour inpatient medical rehabilitation center offering an alternative to extended hospitalization within a homelike environment. Located in Niskayuna, Northwoods at Hilltop provides individualized treatment services, including ventilator/respiratory, traumatic brain injury and short-term recovery care.

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