By Martha Nodar

Volunteers and organizers from the Jim Mora Count On Me Family Foundation decided to beat Santa Claus and scored a touchdown by landing at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite in Sandy Springs Dec. 8.

Striving to offer the children an escape from their daily hospital routine during the holidays, and a respite to families in these current economic times, the Foundation celebrated its annual “holiday shop” by having every young patient choose two free gifts at the hospital’s brand new Child Life Zone.

The Zone is a high-tech play environment within the hospital with an outdoor setting, putting green, basketball court, large screen theater, and more — built by HKS architects and founded in February by icons from the world of sports and entertainment.

“We are just thrilled about having this event in the Zone,” said Juliet Veal, The Zone Coordinator at Children’s. “This was a fantastic day filled with smiles.”

Founded in Atlanta in 2005, the Foundation is the brainchild of philanthropists Jim Mora and his wife, Shannon. Mora is the former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Shannon Mora is a devoted volunteer who has been involved with the Special Olympics and many other charitable organizations by using her marketing background for fundraising.

“I have an older sister, Whitney, who has Down syndrome,” she said. “I grew up learning to be empathetic and inclusive. I have always had a good time getting involved; anything that has to do with kids, I’m there.”

The Foundation’s mission is to raise funds to support children in need in both Georgia and Washington. The Moras are particularly interested in those children with limited financial resources, as well as those who are physically, mentally and/or developmentally challenged.

Although the Moras moved to Seattle in 2007, they have maintained the Foundation’s headquarters here in Atlanta where it was first established. Shannon Mora and two other coaches’ wives flew from Seattle for the holiday event at Scottish Rite.

“This is our fourth time celebrating our annual holiday shop at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but it is the first time we have it at the Zone,” Shannon Mora said. “The Zone is a fabulous place where children can focus on just being children and having fun.”

Children three years of age and older were escorted into the Zone to do their shopping while younger ones enjoyed gift bags and infants received baby blankets to take home.

Shannon Mora said the older children had the chance to shop for two complimentary gifts and to have them wrapped by volunteers to give away to a friend or relative. They also enjoyed choosing one free and interactive board game for the entire family.

“This was a fun event for the kids,” said Terri Grunduski, the Foundation’s executive director. “You should have seen their faces.”