Students to donate toys for hospitalized children

Brittney Mestdagh

Hospital personnel often string up snowflakes and garlands to bring a festive atmosphere to those who cannot go home for the holidays, which includes children in the pediatric wards. Many parents try to take their children home for Christmas, but some are too sick to leave the hospital.

In an effort to help bring the holiday spirit to such children, Grand Valley State University student Christine Colleran began the Holiday Helpers toy for those children who she said need a “pick me up.”

When she was young, Colleran had kidney problems for several years. She spent one Christmas in the hospital but could not get in the spirit of the season despite the decorated ward.

Then, a doctor and his family visited her and gave her an activity book.

“It made my night,” she said. “It made things so much better because it was unexpected.”

Years later and with the help of her roommate, Mikki Fujimori, Colleran began planning the Holiday Helpers toy drive in November. She and her parents had done a neighborhood drive in the Detroit area for several years, but Colleran wanted to expand to GVSU.

Fujimori, a pre-nursing major, volunteered at Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, Mich., one of the hospitals they will visit on Dec. 23 to distribute gifts.

Fujimori recalled bringing tools up for surgeries but was saddened when she passed the pediatric ward. After her experience there, she said she was excited to be involved with the drive.

So far, Colleran and Fujimori have handed out fliers by the transformational links on campus but struggled with publicity because they are not a registered student organization. Their friends have donated gifts and given money, but they need more donations to help more children.

They encourage everyone to donate toys, books, movies and gift cards. Some gifts, such as stuffed animals, cannot be accepted because they are not sanitary.

All donations must be new and unwrapped.

With finals starting, many students may not have time to go shopping for a gift to donate but may have a specific one in mind. Students are free to donate money and detail what they wish for Colleran and Fujimori to buy with it. Holiday Helpers also accepts unspecified monetary donations.

Picking out presents to buy with the unspecified donations is the most fun, Fujimori said. She spent two hours in Barnes and Noble looking at books and one hour in Meijer looking at Barbies.

They also look forward to giving the gifts to children in three hospitals in the Detroit area. Colleran talked her friend Joe Edge into dressing up like Santa Claus.

“I feel like I need to do my good deed,” Edge said.

He said he empathizes with what families of those children go through, because his grandmother has been in and out of Henry Ford Hospital recently.

Edge said holiday illnesses displace families who would rather be in a homey, festive environment. It also dampens the spirits of both parties.

While those in hospitals are away from their homes, their families are also out visiting them. No one wants to be in a hospital as either a patient or a visitor during the holidays, he said.

Donations can be dropped off at Colleran and Fujimori’s apartment, H-1 in 48 West, where there is a donation box outside the door. They are also willing to pick up donations. Students can call Colleran at 248-982-4193 or Fujimori at 248-345-3696 to arrange any special accommodations.

“We are so thankful to everyone who has donated or will donate in the future,” Colleran said.

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