FEATURE | Posted May 5, 2015

Community donates to children's hospital

Love, one stitch at a time

Sally Coyle displays a quilt she made for UC Davis Children's Hospital © UC Regents
Sally Coyle holds a quilt she made. Coyle donates eight to ten quilts per month to the children’s hospital.

Over the years, community members have given back to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, with countless donations from hand knit baby hats to blankets, dolls to new toys.

“Without the wonderful community that we have, we wouldn’t have the supplies and items that we need to run our programs for the children at the hospital,” said Diana Sundberg, manager of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department. “We’re so thankful to the community for thinking of the children.”

Many donations are welcome gifts or gifts for patients celebrating their birthday or commemorating other special milestones in their medical care such as end of treatment. Other donations are used in the playroom or as items for medical play.

Here are just a couple of examples of the generosity the children’s hospital has received from local residents.

Stroke survivor sews 1,000 quilts

Sally Coyle has been donating lap quilts to UC Davis Children’s Hospital for 13 years. As a former member of the American Sewing Guild, Coyle spent years sewing intricate quilts. Fifteen years ago, Coyle had a stroke and found she could no longer sew so elaborately. However, she could sew straight lines and soon began making quilts on a monthly basis for pediatric patients at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

The quilts are placed on the foot of the bed of each patient who is admitted, and patients can take their quilt home when they are discharged.

“The quilts help decrease stress and anxiety in our patients,” said Angie Marin, nurse manager of Davis 7.

How you can help

UC Davis Children’s Hospital now has an online wish of requested items that anyone can purchase and have delivered directly to the hospital. View the wish list (pdf)

Coyle estimates she’s made eight to ten quilts per month for the past 13 years, which adds up to more than 1,000 quilts for UC Davis Children’s Hospital patients.

Nurses and friends donate all of the fabric and batting Coyle needs. Because of this, the quilt designs vary. One thing remains consistent though:

“I always use bright and cheerful fabric,” said Coyle. “And I’m conscious about making quilts for children, not baby quilts.”

“I enjoy doing it. It makes me happy,” Coyle said. “I’m 87 years old and I still keep at it.”

Dolls bring comfort to young patients

Sacramento area members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also donate to UC Davis Children’s Hospital. The project was started by Geri Beck, who, while looking through her church magazine in 2008, read an article about parishioners donating comfort dolls for young patients at a Bay Area children’s hospital.

“I thought, ‘My goodness that is so cool! And such a neat program,’” said Beck. The story struck a chord with Beck because her daughter was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16.

“My daughter was in an adult ward, not a children’s ward,” Beck said. “I remember being in these sterile rooms and we’d bring things from our house to give her more of a feeling of home.”

As a Humanitarian Leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Beck provides congregations in the Sacramento area with humanitarian aid project ideas. In 2010, she contacted certified child life specialist Janelle Wei about making and donating comfort dolls to UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members model capes
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members model super hero capes they made for pediatric patients.

Beck then presented the idea to two women in her congregation, Lois Sissom and Nancy Bragg, who developed a pattern, started making the dolls and teaching others. Thanks to Beck’s group and the generosity of other community members, more than 500 comfort dolls in varying skin tones have been donated to UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“These dolls are an invaluable resource tool for us,” said Wei.

“As child life specialists, we use the comfort dolls throughout the week to help children learn about and understand the human body,” Wei said. “The dolls help child life specialists explain medical procedures and introduce medical tools in a non-threatening manner. The dolls aid us in understanding children’s physical pain and often times help children express their feelings.”

“My daughter had a stuffed gorilla that hung from the hospital TV,” said Beck. “The doll becomes like their little friend — somebody to be there for them, in addition to being useful in explaining procedures and surgeries.”

“I still have the gorilla in her room because it was such a comfort to her, like the dolls. She’s 34 now, married and has children,” Beck said.

In addition to coordinating the creation and donation of comfort dolls, Beck has helped organize groups to sew pillowcases, tutus and super hero capes for pediatric patients. Beck and her teams are always seeking out new projects that support the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“It’s been a blessing for our members to do something like this,” said Beck.