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Women's Health

Help to Brighten a Child's Hospital Stay During the Holidays

The Giving Tree and Child Life Program at the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent

December 01, 2010
>Giving a gift that's priceless

When most of us think of our children on Christmas Day, we envision them running to the Christmas tree to see what Santa left for them.

But, unfortunately, not all children wake up at home on December 25 to gifts under their family's Christmas tree. Some children wake up to the sights and sounds of the holidays in the hospital and Christmas just doesn't feel the same.

"We can't change the fact that they're in the hospital, but we can make it more enjoyable for kids," explains Molly Giles, who coordinates the annual Giving Tree program at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

Through the program, every child in the hospital receives a gift on Christmas Day, bringing many smiles in the midst of difficult times. But the kids aren't the only happy ones. Giles says the gifts are as much for the parents as they are for the children.

"A parent with a child in the hospital spends so much time at the bedside that there is little time or desire to shop," she says. "Or bills and eating out also make it difficult to purchase gifts for the holidays."

A year-round gift

While gifts are collected during the holidays, they are handed out to children throughout the year by the hospital's child life specialists. The Giving Tree gifts are used for birthdays, end-of-treatment parties and sometimes as a reward or recognition for how well a child has handled a medical procedure.

"We try to give something to every child while they're here," says Angie Shepler, CCLS, a child life specialist on the general pediatrics floor. "Most of those gifts come from the donations we receive during the holidays."

Shepler is one of nine child life specialists who interact with inpatient and outpatient pediatric patients. Because medical treatments and procedures can cause emotional stress and some pain for children, child life specialists have a variety of resources to help educate patients about unfamiliar terms or procedures. They help children (and their families) understand and manage their experiences in the hospital by encouraging expression of feelings through medical play, offering support and distractions during procedures, and providing techniques for coping, pain management and relaxation.

"It's important to make the hospital a positive experience for kids while they are here," Shepler explains. The Giving Tree gifts – and how the child life specialists use them with young patients – are a part of creating that positive experience.


Giving Tree Locations

You can find Giving Trees at the following locations:

• Castleton Square Mall

• Clay Terrace Shopping Center

• Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

• Indiana Repertory Theatre

• The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Participating is simple! Just select a tag from a Giving Tree, purchase the item listed on the tag, and return the unwrapped gift to one of the partner locations or to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

Patient-friendly requests include:

• Silly Bandz

• Craft Items

• Stickers

• Handheld Games

• Infant Toys

• Activity Books

• Nintendo DSTM Games

• Game Boyฎ Games

• Character Items

• Princess Items

• Talking Books

• Character Pillows

• Boxed Puzzles

• Portable DVD players

• DVDs

• Wooden Puzzles

• Action Figures/Sets

• Board Games

• Journals

• Stress Balls

For more information, call Molly Giles at 317-338-7193.

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