ATLANTA - Every year about a thousand doctors, nurses and patients at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston are treated to a Thanksgiving feast. It's all thanks to one very grateful father.
Jay Cunningham started this tradition more than two decades ago. He spent a lot of time at CHOA after the birth of his son John.
"John was born with a serious heart defect and was rushed here before anyone could hold him. He was in and out of the hospital for weeks at a time. At 7 months he had full open-heart surgery," said Jay Cunningham, owner of Superior Plumbing.
Today, John is a healthy 23-year-old.
"I'm definitely grateful that I'm able to do physically what I want to, and that I'm not spending my life going through surgeries," said John Cunningham.
Jay Cunningham will be forever grateful to the doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who saved John's life. To show his thanks, he invites them all to Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital.
"We do it as a thank you for all the care and grace and God's good grace for taking care of our son," said Cunningham.
The whole hospital staff is invited, along with patients and their families who are spending Thanksgiving in the hospital.
John says he likes to sit with the patients and telling them not to give up.
"I like just sitting down with them and telling my story and what I've done, and sort of give them that hope," said John Cunningham.
Cunningham's family and friends, and friends of friends, pitch in to help.
"I get to do the dessert room, how great can that be!" said Jan Cunningham, John's grandmother.
Jan Cunningham says seeing plates loaded up with food, and smiles on faces, brings joy to her heart.
"I feel this is amazing, that one little act can give back to so many people. God blesses you a lot more when you bless others," said Jan Cunningham.
To the Cunningham family, this is their day to say thank you for a life.
"It's just a simple thank you to the hospital and for a very important thing they did for us in the past," said Jay Cunningham.