PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — From yearly visits from Santa Bill to superheroes walking the hallways of OSF Healthcare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, the smiles from the youngest patients were made possible by behind-the-scenes work from Dee Gaines.

“I do it because I know what it’s like, personally, to have a sick child,” said Gaines. “I know what it’s like to have a family member sick.”

Gaines is a special visitors coordinator for OSF Healthcare Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria.

She said her impact comes directly from her heart.

“365 days of the year,” said Gaines. “365 days. Because I love what I do. I love my job.”

Her drive to make sure her patients are taken care of and happy leaves an imprint on her patients.

“You’re confined to four walls for the time that you’re here and when you have a bright smile that walks in your room and asks you if you need anything, it just brings a little brightness to your day,” said a former patient Deidra Harper.

“To me, she was light during a dark time,” said former patient Alex Whalen. “When you have someone like Dee, that you can count on, count on her to be there. It makes it a lot easier to have the time pass day.”

Gaines’ reach extends beyond hospital walls through her work as a sickle cell community outreach coordinator.

“She is selfless,” said LaShauna Gordon. “She is giving. She works effortlessly it seems like, but she’s very hardworking, very dedicated to her patients, and her family, and she’s always doing the most.”

“I help whoever needs help because it’s about the community,” said Gaines. “Humanity goes hand in hand with Sickle Cell. Humanity goes hand in hand with OSF. Humanity goes outside the hospital, so humanity is everywhere.”

Gaines has dedicated more than three decades to creating positive moments for children and the community. She said her impact isn’t done yet.

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