Springtime is always hopping for Wells Fargo’s Armando Garcia.
For 15 years, patients at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital have known him as the Easter Bunny with the blue bowtie who brightens their day with a surprise Easter basket delivery.
The Miami operations analyst is the longest-serving bunny in Wells Fargo’s “Hops for Hope” Easter basket blitz, which kicks into high gear the week before Easter across the U.S.
Organized by Cash Vault Services in Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending Business, Hops for Hope delivers baskets to children in hospitals, children’s homes, homeless shelters, and more. What started with 25 baskets in 2001 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now has grown to nearly 5,000 baskets, 21 states, and young recipients in 34 cities.
“I became a bunny because I was looking for ways to help,” Armando recalls. ““Back in the days before the name change to Nicklaus, I spent a lot of time at Miami Children’s Hospital as a child because of my asthma and allergies. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to give back, and I hope to keep hopping for many years to come.
“Every time I walk or hop in a room and the child and their parents are smiling, I know I’m doing something good.”
Easter bunny duty has two rules, he says: Never be seen in public without bunny head, feet, and hands attached, and never talk while in costume — just use hand gestures. “You don’t want to break the magic.”
Team members from scores of Wells Fargo businesses either donate or assemble the Easter baskets. Deliveries range from 20 to 365 baskets, and four events this year involve the Wells Fargo stagecoach.
Cash Vault Services team member Karl Hansell organized the first delivery of 25 baskets in 2001 to Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and coordinated the project with delivery partners Brink’s, Loomis, Garda and Rochester armored car services until his retirement in 2015.
Diagnosed with juvenile arthritis as a child, Hansell says he remembered how unexpected acts of kindness lifted his spirits when he was hospitalized. “Everyone involved in this project looks forward to bringing smiles to children in some tough circumstances,” he says.
Implementation Consultant Stephen Schlussel and Operations Manager Michael Ninassi now lead the Hops for Hope deliveries nationwide. “We’re excited to be part of a wonderful event that touches so many lives and to continue this tradition of caring for and serving our communities.”
Planning starts each February, and Jayden Livingston is among those who can’t wait for Hops for Hope to arrive.
An operations processor for the Cash Vault team in Tempe, Ariz., she’s one of the regional coordinators Stephen and Michael work with in the basket blitz. “I’m so excited to be part of Hops for Hope in Arizona again this year, in planning a celebration for the La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter,” Jayden says. “It’s such a meaningful day, watching the faces of the children as they receive a basket filled with toys and other goodies.
“The Wells Fargo stagecoach is the highlight of the day with children of all ages waiting patiently for their turn to ride. This event grows each year, and half of our office volunteers. It’s all about the children’s smiles that continue to warm our hearts, year after year.”