In your community there are local Children’s Hospital Units with parents who never thought their child would be receiving treatment in a PICU program. Here are a few ways you and your community can help to support local children’s hospitals for families with children in Pediatric Intensive Care Units and help to reduce their stress with a few random acts of kindness.
Here’s how one special mom coordinated with her community to support a local children’s hospital. May she continue to inspire all of us to take action…
From the moment we hear that there is a baby on the way, we as parents begin to worry. We plan and hope and wish for happy and healthy children. “Please, just let them be healthy,” we say to ourselves. This is a fear that I don’t think will ever go away. And when my children do fall ill- with a cold, an ear infection, or get a minor scrape or bruise, I worry more. I worry if they’ll sleep alright, if they’re in pain. I worry if it could get worse. Unfortunately, for many parents, they know what ‘worse’ is. For parents that have a child in the hospital, every fear is being realized. When I think of those parents, I just want to help them in some way; to take some of the burden from them, even if for a brief moment.
I spent a year back home in Iowa while my husband completed his medical training. During this time, I became a member of an incredible resident wife group; The Iowa Medical Partners. This is a group for medical and dental residents and their spouses that created social gatherings, children’s playdates and community projects. Their largest philanthropic project was called, Bringing Merry to the Mommies. For this project they collected items for mothers that had babies in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)and mothers who were on hospitalized bedrest. I donated last year and watched as the group did extraordinary things with the resources they had. I was blown away by how the group organized themselves to collect donations from individual people to large companies throughout the country. They also raised money online so that they were able to buy the remaining items they needed. They delivered 85 beautiful diaper bags, filled with amazing items, one to each Mom.
Last year I decided that I wanted to take their idea and do something similar in my own community. I have two children, ages 4 and 2. If they were to fall ill or get critically injured, they would be cared for in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). It meant a lot to me that I could possibly affect a mother caring for children just like mine. Along with the help of many of my friends, we took that idea and created ‘Bring a Little Sunshine Project’ for the University of Florida Shand’s Children’s Hospital. In one month’s time, we raised over $2,000 and collected donations to help bring holiday cheer to families that had children in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) and the PCICU (Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit). Between both units, there were a total of 46 beds. We had a three-tiered plan. First, we collected items for moms and families, putting them in a beautiful gift bag that would be delivered on Christmas Eve. There were also several gift cards- gas, food and entertainment coupons and cards, most of which were donated by local companies. Second, we collected children’s items- toys, books, games, clothing, pacifiers, blankets, ITunes gift cards, amongst many other things. Because the unit serves children 0-18, it would be too impossible to know which items would be age appropriate for each gift bag so we donated it straight to the units, where they could disperse the items as they need them- for birthdays, holidays, raffles, etc. The third tier was the monetary donation. Due to the incredible response we received, we were able to give bigger gift cards, purchase additional ones for the units to use for patients undergoing chemotherapy, a soft blanket for each family, and treats for all of the staff.
Here are 6 ideas you can use to support local children’s hospitals
Call Hospital Administration
I started this project by calling the PICU floor directly and speaking with the Nurse Manager. She was fantastic and put me in connection with Child Life Services, who knew more specifically what the units needed in terms of donations and they helped fine-tune what our goals were to be. They also have so many resources in helping someone get formal approval from the hospital and the use of their logo- which helped IMMENSELY in receiving donations. This helped many companies have peace of mind that their donation was going to good use.
Lighten your load and have fun while doing it. I messaged several of my friends, asking if anyone would want to help and was blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm! My friends not only took on responsibilities to get things done, but they also had such creative ideas, making our project become so much more than it would have been. Outlining goals and tasks can really help organize a group. We also had a Facebook Page and Instagram Account where we posted pictures of the donations, as well as updates on our progress to keep everyone feeling like they were a big part of this project.
Get Your Kids Involved
Your kids will love to help brighten another child’s day. They can make homemade cards, help you organize donations, set up pictures for online posting, even help put items into the donation bags. There are so many little things kids can help with! Once our project was well underway, we started receiving several packages a day, filled with donations. I thought it would be very difficult for my kids to see all of these toys, games, etc and not be able to play with any of them. But instead, it was the opposite. They ran to the door when the delivery man came and joyfully yelled to me, “Mom! The children in the hospital got more packages today!” The capacity our children have for understanding and love is astounding. My four year old daughter came to me during this time and said that she wanted to donate one of her birthday toys to the children. I talked with her about this to make sure she understood that she wouldn’t get the toy back and that she wouldn’t get anything in return (I thought she might think she would be trading for something else). She explained how she had so many toys and that it would make another child really happy. I didn’t ask her to do that and the fact that she decided on her own and was able to say why she wanted to donate her toy, made my heart almost burst with pride and love.
This is my favorite part of any donation, party, gift or surprise. The details. The fun little things that will personalize it. Try to put yourself in their situation and think, “What would I want?” A few fun ideas are: Vending Machine Bags- make up baggies with a few dollars in change for a drink or snack (you could even ask people to bring a donation jar into their work to collect change for the cause), gift cards for activities they can do with their child or even other children like painting or a local kid’s gym, photography sessions (very sad to think about, but some of the children in the hospital may not be discharged for a long time, if ever, but that doesn’t mean the parents shouldn’t have a beautiful photo of their child), personalized gift tags, and handwritten notes.
Find Ways to Bring Your Community In
Our project centered around donations so we had to think of ways in which to get people and companies to donate. We emailed hundreds of companies- from local Etsy shops to companies of products that we just love. We went door to door in our city asking for donations and we also through social media. We created a Facebook Page and an Instagram account where we shared our progress and photos of the donations. We also created a GoFundMe account- people could keep checking all of these sites to track our progress and become involved, no matter where they lived. For their part- anyone that donated received some positive advertisement with links to all of their sites. Win win!
Think of the Staff, Too
This brings the project full-circle. If the goal is to lighten a parents’ worry and suffering, why not honor and treat those that spend each day doing everything they can to take care of them and their child? The burden that each hospital staff member bears must be great. This is a wonderful opportunity to give something for them too. Our project was around the holidays, so we used some of the donated money to buy the staff hot chocolate and scones, as well as large food platters that were generously donated by a local restaurant.
How can you Support your local Children’s Hospital?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kat Durst is a very active and enthusiastic stay at home mom who enjoys getting the most out of each day. She is from Iowa but has made Florida her home, with her husband and two children. She loves running, sewing, and helping in her community. She is the Co-Founder of Bring a Little Sunshine Project.
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