When I tell people that I work for Kids Wish Network, I usually get asked the same set of questions. What exactly do you do? How do children qualify to have a wish granted? What are some of the wishes you’ve done? Do you get to meet the kids?
You might think that since I work at a children’s charity that I spend my days playing with kids and getting to see smiles on many faces. But the truth is that Kids Wish Network caters to so many children across the country that the opportunity for us to work with our children face-to-face does not present itself very often. Usually, the only interaction we get with our kids is when we speak with them on the phone or we get photos. Today, however, I was able to see what our work does in a real life setting, not just through the lens of a camera. This was made possible thanks to our friends at St. Joseph’s Hospitals and our gift bank program.
Kids Wish Network has a very unique program called the Holiday of Hope Gift Bank. This program allows us to donate literally millions of dollars worth of brand new toys to children’s facilities across the country. Games, puzzles, books, dolls and stuffed animals are given to children who need them the most. These toys are put in hospital and rehab playrooms, given as a birthday gift and distributed to young boys and girls who are scared and unsure of what their next hospital visit will bring. Our donations go a long way to brighten the lives of these very deserving children.
Kids Wish Network brought over $22,000 worth of brand new toys for the kids at St. Joseph’s today as part of a Christmas in July celebration. Our gift bank donations are made possible through the kindness and generosity of many companies, and a large portion of today’s gift bank came from our friends at the Social & Community Service Committee at Home Shopping Network.
I was lucky enough to tag along today with the mission of seeing KWN in action to write about it. Prior to going, I wondered if there were going to be kids in attendance, and I was super excited to find out many little boys and girls were inside coloring and playing.
I am a sucker for kids. Being at Kids Wish Network for over a year now has even more so amplified my love for children, and has really given me a heart for kids fighting illnesses and diseases. Getting to interact with the kids today has been my best day at Kids Wish Network by far.
I was lucky enough to talk to many kids today, but I was even luckier to meet David and Ezra.
I first saw Ezra with his mom, his little bald head bobbing up a down through the sea of children. His second birthday is just a few weeks away, and he will most likely spend it in the hospital receiving chemotherapy. Today was a fun and exciting day for Ezra, a day spent playing with new friends. When he saw that there was an inflatable kiddy pool filled with blow-up beach balls, he made a beeline for it. I approached his mom and informed her that her son was adorable, found out his name, and proceeded to play ‘throw all the balls out of the pool’ with him. He was determined not to have those balls in that pool, and he did a pretty good job of keeping them out. I kept saying, ‘get out of here ball,’ each time he would throw them out. And before we left, he repeated my phrase with a very small, somewhat tired voice.
David came by to visit during Ezra’s game. A cute, little red-headed boy, David was followed closely by his mother, and his IV pole. He was shyer than Ezra, but when Ezra climbed out of the pool and handed him a beach ball, he was soon ready to join the fun. I think that the funniest part of the day came when David noticed the inflatable flip flops, found a comfy spot on the floor, removed his sneakers, and proceeded to put the flip flops on his feet. Smart kid. He knew those shoes were supposed to be on his feet, not in a pool.
When the excitement of our toy donation, the commotion from the cameras and news crews and the noise from the entire Land ‘O Lakes high school football team died down, I snagged a quick interview with Nora Gunn, the Director of Development for St. Joseph’s Hospitals Foundation. I wanted to know what her job requires and what Kids Wish Network’s donation of toys means for the foundation.
“We are the fundraising arm for the hospital to help support patient care and capitol projects like construction and commercial outreach,” Gunn said. “We fund for St. Joseph’s Children’s, St. Joseph’s Women’s, the main hospital and St. Joseph’s North.”
Nora said that this is the second year the foundation has teamed up with Kids Wish Network. She said that the toys will be a big help to the patients.
“We have playrooms and we use the toys to stock all four playrooms. We also use them for special occasions like birthdays and special procedures,” said Gunn. “The toys certainly help keep the children’s minds off their hospitalization. It keeps their spirits up and helps with the healing process.”
Doing research for my job has often led me to articles and websites that reiterate Gunn’s comment: A happy patient is a healthy patient. Seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces today really proved to me how true this is. Even though they were at a hospital, they were having fun and it was helping them forget what was going on. They were smiling, not crying. They were playing, not lying in a hospital bed.
I am not sure when the time will arise again for me to interact with the children who are impacted by our work at Kids Wish Network, but I am anxiously waiting the next time I get to play with children like David and Ezra. The time I spent putting a smile on their faces today may have been a small moment in their lives, but it was a moment where they were smiling, not worrying about what is happening to them.
I am so proud of everyone at Kids Wish Network and for working so hard at what they do. Their efforts are impacting the lives of children across the country. I am also proud to say that I am a member of the KWN team.