Founded in 2012, Anna’s Gift is a completely and totally 100% volunteer organization that currently provides activities packaged in the form of “kits” for hospitalized children/teens and young adults and their families. We rely on volunteers to put together the stuff that goes into the ‘kits’ that the kids in the hospital can then make into their own creation.
While the foundation was incorporated in May of 2012, our first “fundraiser” was in the summer of 2013 from Anna’s sister who had a neighborhood lemonade stand. We started our activity in 2013, when we partnered with the Hershey Children’s Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, providing $4,000 worth of tickets to Hershey Park, along with meal vouchers and game vouchers for the patients at the Ronald McDonald House at Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Hershey Medical Children’s Center. We also made over 100 activity kits for the older kids in the hospital that year. There are many activities for the young ones to do, and even some for pre-teens. Our focus is on activities that are a little more involved and require a greater concentration and detail work. We started out with one “kit”, and soon added others, as the Child Life Specialists in the hospitals we were suppling our kits to asked for them. One kit is a fleece pillow kit. We cut out the raw fabric and package everything together along with the stuffing and seal it in tear-proof packaging. The kids in the hospital then get to tie their own pillow together, put a poem or a prayer inside, stuff it like they want to, and have a nice “lovey” they can take back and forth to the hospital. Another kit is a birdhouse kit, similar to the one in our pictures, only smaller. It has been very popular! We also have a sugar cube castle kit for those aspiring architects, and many more.
In 2015, we made and delivered 1,155 kits to regionally local hospitals, including Hershey, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Sinai Children’s Hospital in Baltimore and Children’s National in Washington, DC. Thanks to a travel grant, we were able to participate in an “Anna’s Gift Day” in Pittsburgh, at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, where kids and their siblings/parents/friends were allowed to come to the atrium of the hospital to make our pre-assembled kits into their own creation.
In 2016, we added two new hospitals, Janet Weiss Children’s Center in Danville, Pa, and the Children’s Inn at NIH, where children and their families stay while being treated at NIH, and the NIH Clinical Center, both in Bethesda, Md.
Now in 2020, we have added a few new hospitals, and have made about 7,000 kits each year.
In our experience with Anna’s three year illness battling cancer, we were in the hospital more than out at times during her treatment. Kids communicate with cell phones and computers. But in Middle and High School, friends are in sports and other activities that prevents them from having contact with a child who is not in their school. So, extra effort was needed to find things for Anna to do that would help keep her mind off of being in the hospital. We provide Hershey Park tickets, meal vouchers and game vouchers for a number of reasons. The first is that, often having a child who has an illness is a financial burden on families and they can not afford the typical things a family would do for fun. The other issue is that if you have a child who is ill, it is very hard to plan to do anything except last minute. Sometimes adults who are caring for the child have so many other things to think about and do, that family “fun” gets put on the back burner. The tickets for the families not only allow them to spend a day together at Hershey Park while spending almost no money, but also allows a child, through game vouchers, who can not (or does not) want to ride the rides, enjoy the Park. Anna loved Hershey Park, and would go there with her friends in between treatments.
Families who have written us letters thanking us for all of these things tell of how trying it is, and how Anna’s Gift allows their child or family feel “normal” for at least a moment in time. And that makes all the difference.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and share in our small effort to make a little bit of lasting joy. Seeing a child who is ill enjoy something, is a memory that will never die. It is a good memory – one of joy – that puts a smile on a face with a fond memory during a difficult time, or a memory that helps to sooth the soul of a grieving parent or sibling. These memories are the glue that helps one to get through the tough days.
Here is a video that Kristen Aellen, who made a new kit for Anna’s Gift for her Girl Scout Gold Star award.
If you have a child who has a life threatening illness and would like me to pray for your child, for their healing and comfort, please send their name to me at Annasgiftfoundation@gmail.com.
With love and caring, Anna’s mom
Anna’s Gift logo was designed by a very gifted artist and talented musician, Diana. Further work on the logo was done by a talented graphic designer, Brian Hess of Envision, in Camp Hill, Pa.
Hot Pink has come to be known as Anna’s “color”. Prior to her death, when Anna knew she might not survive, she requested that her casket be painted hot pink. So, Anna’s casket was painted hot pink (thank you to the auto body shop that painted it for us!). Now everyone knows to wear hot pink in her honor!
At Anna’s burial, there were two Monarch butterflies, one larger, one smaller, that went from bouquet to bouquet, touching on each one of them before they both made a second round and then flew off into the woods….