Luckily for the future patients of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt at Williamson Medical Center, Champ the dog had a busy day. Champ, the hospital’s mascot, helped families, business representatives and others haul donations into the atrium throughout the afternoon as part of a “donation blitz” held at the hospital Monday.
The purpose of the blitz was to gather toys, blankets and other items for children who are admitted to the hospital.
These items are used by child life specialist, Stephanie Hegel, “to help normalize the environment for patients and families when they’re here,” as she put it.
Normalizing the environment means to make kids feel as at home as possible when they’re at the hospital.
“If they have that one thing that they really like at home, if they don’t have it here that really throws off their whole world,” Hegel said.
Things like Play-Doh, stuffed animals and bubbles can calm a child down and ease their anxiety about being in a strange place. In the same way, a new pair of pajamas can make a child feel comfortable, especially if the clothes that child wore to the hospital were damaged in an accident or if the child got sick on them. Items like these can also make great presents for children who have the misfortune of being hospitalized on a birthday or for Christmas.
Hegel explained that there is no budget for these types of items, or for the distraction toys like light up phones and light up spinning toys that she uses to divert children’s attention when they undergo a procedure.
Luckily for the kids at the Williamson Medical Center branch of Monroe Carell Jr., though, hospital staff have found that there are many people in the surrounding area eager to donate such items.
“We’ve been forced to put up a needs list because we’ve had so many people wanting to give,” Brittany Youngblood, the Director of Pediatrics at the hospital, said.
Over the course of the day, the hospital received donations off that list from families and local businesses. The largest donation came from PetSmart, which gave what the company estimated to be 3,000 stuffed dogs and cats.
Many gifts came at the behest of children.
Lisa Johnson is the mother of one such child. Lisa and her daughters, Bailey, 6, and Ansley, 4, were having a conversation when Bailey had an idea.
“We talked about giving back to the community, and she said, ‘For my birthday, instead of getting presents, let’s give something to kids in need,’” Lisa said.
They decided on board games. Bailey and Ansley are big fans of them (for the record, Bailey’s favorite game is Sorry and Ansley’s is Monopoly). At Bailey’s birthday party back in April, all the kids brought board games, which sat around until Monday when the family brought them to Williamson Medical Center.
Bailey said that she came to the hospital Monday “to give the sick and hurt people games.” When asked how that made her feel, the answer was simple.
“Happy,” she said.
Donations are accepted at the hospital year-round. Information about donating can be found here, along with the Children’s Hospital’s wish list.