Toy Donation Helps Children Forget They're in the Hospital
Published Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Toys “R” Us Canada, in partnership with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, donated $2,000 worth of toys and craft projects to help children coming to the Hospital by distracting them so they feel less nervous. (l-r) Sophie Lyons, Starlight Children’s Foundation; Ryan Chester, Toys ‘R’ Us Canada; Mandi Merkley, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; Tracy Switzer and Beth Dosa, Toys ‘R’ Us Canada and Elaine Graydon, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
By Graham Strong
For children, hospitals can be terrifying. Bright lights, big rolling beds, thousands of tubes and beeps and contraptions. It seems like no matter how much we try to tell them that everything’s going to be okay, they instinctively know that something must be wrong.
The Paediactrics staff works hard to make children more at ease. Toys and crafts can help by providing a distraction and making the environment more comfortable for them.
This year, Toys “R” Us Canada, in partnership with Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada donated $2,000 to the Paediatrics Program at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre for toys, stuffies, and art projects. The toys are available for inpatients and outpatients, while the art projects are usually for children with chronic conditions who need to stay longer. The funds also allow Hospital staff to give surprise gifts for children who are at the Hospital over Christmas or their birthday.
Mandi Merkley, the Child Life Specialist at the Hospital, said that the donations make a huge difference to the children.
“Children can be bored, scared, anxious, antsy – a whole range of emotions when they’re stuck at the Hospital. These toys provide them with some much-needed therapeutic distraction,” she said. “It gives them something to focus on other than the procedure or surgery they have coming up.”
Merkley said that she regularly hears back from families who marvel at how such a simple thing can turn the child’s experience into a more positive one.
“They tell me how it makes their days better,” she said. Children who need to be in isolation are most at risk of feeling alone and depressed. “I’ve heard from parents about how difficult it is to care for their child in such a different environment from home. The craft kits in particular help them to forget where they are for a while. Plus, they have something nice to display at the end to make them feel more at home.”
That’s especially important for children from elsewhere in Northwestern Ontario. If they come to the Hospital because of an unplanned emergency, they may not have the chance to bring their favourite toy. A new stuffy can become their hospital buddy.
Merkley said that this donation from Toys “R” Us Canada, in partnership with the Starlight Children’s Foundation helps immensely. Staff can provide more options for children so it’s easier to find their favourite.
“About half of the toys we get for the Child Life program come directly from the Starlight Children’s Foundation,” she said. “Our program runs on a fairly small budget, so we are thankful for all their help!”
Starlight partners with Toys“R”Us Canada to raise funds locally through its in-store Starlight Star donation program. A big thank you then to everyone who shopped and donated at Toys “R” Us Canada!