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UC Davis Children’s Hospital

UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Generous donors made the holidays — and beyond — joyful for children at UC Davis

toy donations © UC Regents
Parents of children hospitalized during the holidays selected toys for their children at a Holiday Workshop on Dec. 22 on the pediatric ward.

Posted Jan. 3, 2012

Toys and other gifts from generous donors, including individuals and families, private businesses and community organizations, made the holiday season joyful for children who were inpatients at UC Davis during the holidays.

The cornucopia of donations will overflow to benefit other children treated at UC Davis into the New Year and beyond. This includes children seen at the UC Davis MIND Institute, in the pediatric general and specialty outpatient clinics, as well as hospitalized patients, shared Diana Sundberg, manager of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at UC Davis.

“We truly are grateful for all the generous donations of toys, games, electronics, clothing and personal-care products that made the season a little bit brighter for children who were hospitalized during the holidays, their siblings and parents," Sundberg said. “Speaking on behalf of the children and their families, I’d like to share my deepest appreciation to our donors for their kindness, generosity and support.”

Public generosity overwhelming

For the past four years the hospital has experienced an upswing in the number of holiday donations, despite the economic downturn, Sundberg said.

“I am truly touched and feel very fortunate to live in a community that is so generous and that chooses to share that generosity with UC Davis,” she said.

Two of those generous donors, Lynne Harris and Geralyn Gorsing, arrived at a drive-up and drop-off event on Dec. 22 at the UC Davis MIND Institute with an entourage of teddy bears from Build-A-Bear Workshop in tow. The pair is employed at CPS HR Consulting in Sacramento.

“We had a contest with 70 people at our holiday party to see who could build a bear first,” Gorsing said. After the team-building exercise the bears found good homes with children at UC Davis.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District toy donation © UC Regents
Generous donors included representatives of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, which partnered with Pillow Pets for Life to deliver Pillow Pets to sick children.

Local law enforcement and fire departments made special visits to children

Other toys and gifts received police and fire department escorts.

A donation of hundreds of Pillow Pets, courtesy of the Metro's firefighter association and a non-profit organization called Pillow Pets for Life, led by Kara Kately, arrived at the hospital main entrance in fire engines on Dec. 20. Toys donated at fire stations throughout Sacramento were added to the donation of the popular gifts — pillows with attached stuffed animals. Later in the week, members of the California Highway Patrol also delivered hundreds of presents for children in squad cars.

Many of the gifts that had arrived earlier in the week of Dec. 22 found homes with children who were in the hospital and their siblings during a “Santa’s Workshop” toy distribution on the pediatric inpatient floor, organized with the help of the hospital’s volunteers.

One of those volunteers, Paulette Levallois, a student at Sacramento State University, said two children in her family had been touched by cancer.

“Our family has spent a lot of time on this floor,” Levallois said as she helped distribute gifts to waiting families on the pediatric ward. “I understand what these families are going through.”

Michelle Johnson spearheaded the collection of toys and other gifts donated by TFLG, a Davis-based law firm. Johnson’s firm also participated in the Holiday Workshop, distributing toys and gifts to children and their families.

California Highway Patrol officers bring toys © UC Regents
California Highway Patrol Officer Adrian Quintero places gifts for Children's Hospital inpatients in the playroom on the pediatric ward on Davis 7.

“We heard several stories while we were at the hospital and they all ended with how grateful they were to have a day full of fun, whimsy, and activities for families that have seen nothing but hospital walls this season,” Johnson said. “After this event, we feel more privileged than ever before to be able to help such a wonderful organization — the UC Davis Children's Hospital,” Johnson said.

All of the donations to UC Davis are put to good use in its pediatric care facilities throughout the year.

For example, at the UC Davis MIND Institute, some donations find their way into the hands of clinicians and researchers who evaluate children for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Certain toys are used as part of the evaluation tool called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or ADOS, which assesses a child for autism. Others toys are used to occupy children in the MIND Institute’s waiting rooms.

Donated art supplies help keep children occupied

Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department specialists use donations of art materials for art therapy activities throughout the year in its playrooms on the medical/surgical pediatrics ward and in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit/Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Even infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) receive age-appropriate toys, such as crib toys.

About the UC Davis Children's Hospital

UC Davis Children’s Hospital is the Sacramento region’s only comprehensive hospital for children, serving infants, children and adolescents with primary, subspecialty and critical-care services. It includes the Central Valley’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for traumatic injuries. The 110-bed hospital includes a 49-bed, state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit and a 16-bed pediatric intensive care unit. With more than 120 physicians in 33 subspecialties, UC Davis Children’s Hospital has more than 74,000 clinic and hospital visits and 13,000 emergency room visits each year. For more information, visit

Toys also are used throughout the year in other hospital waiting rooms, including waiting rooms in the Pediatric Emergency Department and outpatient general pediatrics and specialty clinics. Patients in the Children’s Surgery Center also are offered toys with which to play.

And all children who are in the hospital, regardless of their ages, receive gifts on their birthdays.

Child Life promotes a positive environment for children receiving medical care to support their growth and development.  The program seeks to minimize the stress and anxiety of hospitalization and strengthen the coping skills of the hospitalized child.

The department utilizes play, music, art and education to help the children cope with their health-care experiences. The child life staff also provides support to siblings to help with understanding of the hospital environment, coping and visitation as well as providing special events to all to help normalize the hospital environment.

The department depends upon donations for the toys it uses in its playrooms and materials for its art therapy program for hospitalized children, Sundberg said.  The donations provide the supplies that support playroom and the department’s other activities, she said.

“The art and the music therapy programs would be impossible without the donations, since there is no operating budget allocated for these activities.  A child can’t play in a playroom without toys or create art without art supplies,” she said. “We are forever grateful to the community for their support and generosity.”

Child Life staff members receive presents © UC Regents
Michelle Johnson and Eric Fernandez of TFLG, a Davis-based law firm, hand off toys to Child Life Department Manager Diana Sundberg at the entrance to the MIND Institute.

Other generous donations came from the Davis chapter of Quilts for Kids, which sews holiday quilts and pajama bottoms that are delivered to children during the holidays. Children who attend Merryhill Schools and their families for the past two years have made large donations of toys and other gifts to pediatric patients during the holidays. And Angels for Hearts, spearheaded by heart patient Kimberly Kaufman, donated toys and gifts to children in the Pediatric Heart Center.

UC Davis’ own employees and programs also are generous donors to the pediatrics program during the holidays.

Donations from the neurology clinic were organized by Rose Thatcher, a MOSC III in the Department of Neurology, who rounded up toys and gifts from her co-workers.

“There are so many children out there who do not have the joy of opening gifts at Christmas, so I wanted to do go the extra mile to make sure that they had presents to open,” Thatcher said. “It also helps their families, who may be struggling just to put food on the table.”

Several other UC Davis programs donated to the Child Life Program during the holidays, including the School of Education, the departments of pathology and surgery, and the employees in the operating room, among others.