By Adina Schwarzbaum
I began working at the Orthodox Union a year ago, just a few months after graduating from Touro College. Of the many internships and experiences I obtained while pursuing my psychology degree, my favorite was the time I spent a summer volunteering at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, my hometown. So when we began to review the many programs of the OU’s Department of Community Engagement on my first day, I became very interested in the Beautiful Child Campaign.
Now in its 17th year, the Beautiful Child Campaign donates toys to hospitalized children for the holiday season. All the toys donated are new, fun and educational, and meet all hospital requirements. Although the donations are made during the week of Chanukah, there is no discrimination based on religion, which allows the OU to make an incredible Kiddush Hashem.
Having volunteered at a hospital myself, I can attest first hand to the necessity of such a program. Hospitals usually have a “playroom” in their pediatric area which is stocked with toys, books, crafts, and even game consoles and DVDs. Over time, games lose pieces, craft supplies are depleted, books get lost, DVDs get scratched. It is so important to ensure that the playroom remains up to par. The first lesson we learned in our volunteer training was that these children should never be viewed as sick. They should be viewed as kids. Keeping them busy, distracted, and entertained is just as important to their recovery as any medication.
The individual donations made directly to the children impact the patients at a whole other level. It is not just a matter of keeping kids busy; for that, they could visit the playroom. When gifts are given directly to the child, they are able to feel like they have something of their own. Remember that while children are in the hospital, they are sleeping in a strange bed, in a strange room which is sometimes shared. Unlike their home, they don’t have many things that they could call their own in the hospital, and giving them a gift helps them feel that much more in control. In this strange environment, they now have something that is theirs.
One of the hospitals we visited last year for the campaign was the New York Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital for its annual Chanukah party. It is always heartbreaking to see the tired faces of young children, wheeling IV’s next to them as they walk. But to watch their faces light up as they approach a table full of toys and are told to pick one is a beautiful sight.
Planning all the hospital visits is like a big puzzle. What originally started as a two-person project has grown into a much larger operation, and this year, the Department of Community Engagement has turned to Yachad for help with the deliveries. Yachad/ National Jewish Council for Disabilities is an agency of the Orthodox Union dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities and ensuring their Inclusion in every aspect of Jewish life. It’s a win-win situation, as the Yachad members get a great, feel-good experience, and we get help making all the donations, ensuring that we can continue to broaden our reach in the future.
For all those involved, the Beautiful Child Campaign produces beautiful feelings.
To get involved in our efforts to bring gifts to hospitalized children during the upcoming holiday season, donations can be made by calling (212)613-8300 or by donating Online Here.
Or, you can pick out your own toy or gift from our Amazon Wish List.
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