'B.J. Claus' overcomes illness to gather thousands of presents for Riley Hospital patients

10-year-old Ind. boy provides for sick children

INDIANAPOLIS - A 10-year-old boy from Bloomfield is again playing Santa Claus this year for fellow patients at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, despite his own health problems.

B.J. Yoho, better known as B.J. Claus, has been collecting toys for holiday distribution at Riley for four years.

The first year, he gathered about 100 gifts. This year, he already has more than 2,000.

All the toys were collected from local businesses, churches, friends and families. Kohl's and Ace Hardware made last-minute donations, boosting the total number of toys to more than double B.J.'s goal of 1,000.

But B.J. is ambitious.

"Next year's (goal) is 4,000. 2014, 1 million. Each year, I go higher," he said. "I like to make kids happy."

B.J. has had 16 surgeries at Riley and is scheduled to have a 17th surgery next month, so he's all-too familiar with what it's like to be in a hospital bed.

Yoho decided four years ago that he wanted to cheer up his fellow patients, so he went into Santa mode.

"He's very sweet, caring and loves life," said Joy Yoho, B.J.'s grandmother.

Born with spina bifida, B.J. has faced a host of serious medical issues, including an amputation.

"I could not be a more proud mom," said Blaine Yoho, B.J.'s mother. "I'm really honestly speechless."

B.J. collected 640 toys last year and told his mom that he wanted to hit 1,000.

"I said, "I don't know if we'll be able to do that,'" Blaine Yoho said. "It turned out we collected over 2,000 toys, and it's just unbelievable."

B.J.'s family said all that the boy has been through has made him stronger and has cemented his will to help others.

He's been through so much for the last 10 years, and he knows how much Riley has helped through all those years," Blaine Yoho said. "The love and the car that they've shown him, this is his way to give back, to help them."

The smiles B.J. brings to the faces of other patients helps his family cope with the challenges B.J. continues to face.

"Knowing that he gets to help another child put a smile on his face is just absolutely priceless to me," Blaine Yoho said.

B.J's only regret is that he can't deliver all the gifts himself. Lakeview Elementary School is having a toy drive this week in the boy's name.

B.J.'s efforts have earned nationwide attention. He got to meet President Barack Obama this year, along with traveling to Disney World and being the 2012 Children's Miracle Network Champion for Indiana.

Donations can be made to Riley Hospital for Children in B.J.'s name.

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