Over the holidays, one of the last places children want to be is in the hospital.
Some have no choice, though, and for 11 years the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas (CBCC) has tried to bring smiles to young patients – with puppies. Each December, the nonprofit organization hands out hundreds of the stuffed animals to children at hospitals around the region.
“We talked about kids in the hospital around the holidays and that it was a lonely place,” CBCC president and CEO Martin Grable said about the founding of the program. “Kids are all excited about Christmas and whatnot, and then they are in the hospital. Everybody wants to go home at Christmas.”
In early December, blood center marketing manager Kelly Singleton carried a basket of stuffed puppies around Levine Children’s Hospital and later set up two Christmas trees there with puppies underneath.
Skylar Wofford, 12, cuddled her new red and white puppy in a hallway at Levine Children’s Hospital. Wofford was there for a treatment for nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder.
“It’s cute,” said Skylar, who decided to name the puppy “Izzy.” “It was so nice.”
Volunteers gave puppies to all children they encountered, including babies, children heading to therapy and siblings of patients. Each puppy wore a CBCC neckerchief and had gift tags attached that had been signed by blood donors.
Puppies for Patients also is an opportunity for blood donors to bring joy to children in hospitals during the holidays.
Martin Grable, president and CEO of Community Blood Center of the Carolinas
The tags were reminders that blood donations are always needed, especially during the holidays when people are busy and blood donations are down.
CBCC is the primary blood supplier to 27 hospitals in the region, and it relies on volunteer blood donors and local organizations to provide blood for local patients.
Grable said that while it is well known that trauma patients often receive blood transfusions, there is an ongoing need for blood for patients undergoing cancer treatments, receiving transplants and being treated for sickle cell disease.
The organization works hard to raise awareness of the need for blood over the holidays.
“We all get busy around the holidays,” Grable said. “All eyes turn to Christmas, parties, shopping, family. That’s just where people’s heads are, but for the patients who are in the hospital, we still have a continuing, normal need for blood so we really fight for the attention of donors during this period of time.
“Puppies for Patients also is an opportunity for blood donors to bring joy to children in hospitals during the holidays.”
Four-year-old Inayah Hajjaj held her new stuffed puppy as her nurse pushed her in a stroller down the hall. Inayah and her mom, Khadijah Hajjaj, had been staying in the hospital for more than a month while Inayah received therapy for complications from brain surgery.
Carrie Keuten, event coordinator for Levine Children’s Hospital, said the stuffed puppies often bring comfort to children, and some who check out of the hospital after the holidays often bring the puppy with them if they have to return, she said.
“I doesn’t matter how young or how old, everybody loves them,” Keuten said.
Grable said the CBCC encourages eligible people to consider giving blood, a “meaningful gift” during the holiday season.
“People’s lives really do depend on blood donations,” Grable said. “It’s a gift that costs nothing, and it’s priceless to the person on the other end of that unit of blood.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
To make an appointment at any blood donation center or mobile drive, visit www.cbcc.us or call 704-972-4700.