Every hospital is different. Each of the wonderful places that is supported by Extra Lifers across the US and Canada has its own set of holiday traditions and happenings. Those events reflect the deeply personal stories that play out in the halls and rooms of those Children's Miracle Network Hospitals every day. In the spirit of the season, we wanted to share a handful of our favorite stories from hospitals located all over North America!
SickKids’ Milk & Cookies
Everyone loves to kick back during the holidays with some cookies and milk to wash them down! In recognition of this, SickKids launched a fundraising initiative to partner with bakers and cookie manufacturers to do some good with all of the sweet things being sold. Their partners include the likes of Walmart, Toppers, Girl Gang Goodies, General Mills, and more! One of their biggest sponsors is Oreo. The company pledged to donate at least $500,000 CAD to SickKids - all fueled by the sales of cookies sold during the holiday season. Check out their full list of sponsors to find some goodies that might also spread a little bit of cheer at SickKids!
Ignite Hope at Phoenix Children’s Hospital
In 2011, a young girl named Katie found herself diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of cancer. The 15-year-old's illness was so rare that it only affects five in one million kids. During her fight at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Katie's friends and church group gathered at the hospital to hold a vigil by candlelight. The gathering and its shining lights burned in the darkness and giving all of the kids at Phoenix Children's along with Katie the gift of hope during the holidays. This has now become a growing and yearly tradition, called Ignite Hope, carrying on the legacy of hope that Katie left for those she loved after she passed away in 2013.
The event has also taken on a fundraising aspect with the Hope Fund, which raises money to help fund over 60 programs at Phoenix Children's Hospital. This helps kids to feel more at home while at the hospital via animal-assisted therapy, pastoral care, music therapy, and child life programs. This year, over 3,000 people came together across two different events on December 14th and managed to raise $453,000 USD, a new record for Ignite Hope! This was helped by sponsors like Pizza Hut, 1Wish, 12 News, iHeart Media, and more.
Christmas Tree Farm at Children’s of Alabama
Mark Miller has been bringing Christmas to Children's of Alabama in Birmingham. This year, he brought over 340 trees donated by his colleagues across 30 different stores to the hospital, allowing kids to pick out their own trees to decorate and feel a bit of the holiday spirit while they are away from their homes and families during this difficult time of the year. The event came completely magical with fake snow and an appearance by Santa Claus himself!
Miller was inspired to lead this Christmas tree farm to honor the memory of his daughter, Mary Beth, who passed away in 2013 due to complications with her heart. It hurt him to think of kids who might be alone in the hospital, away from their family's holiday traditions, so he started the Christmas tree farm. Kids who weren't well enough to make it down to the event had trees brought to them. It's a stellar tradition that helps kids feel a little bit less alone and isolated in the hospital during the holidays.
The World's Largest Lego Menorah for El Paso Children’s Hospital
There's something big happening in El Paso, Texas. Earlier this month, the Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso gathered to celebrate Hanukkah a bit early by bringing numerous families in the community together for an impressive project. Together, the community constructed a 10ft tall menorah out of 70,000 Lego pieces. The size of the menorah makes it unique as the world's largest menorah constructed out of Lego pieces.
The menorah project was more than just for fun, however. The project is one of a number of interfaith Lego building projects that will be happening during the holidays. The event organizers used a building project to teach middle schoolers about wind power with windmill construction sessions. On top of that, the Jewish Federation went to Vino Nuevo Church where they worked with members of other faiths to build the old city of Jerusalem, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Wailing Wall, as well as many other historical landmarks.
These events regularly draw hundreds of participants and viewers. The draw opens them up to some wonderful opportunities to do good in the El Paso community. For example, the proceeds raised from the construction of the menorah went toward supporting the El Paso Children's Hospital.
We wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a stellar Solstice, and a bright Kwanzaa. In short, may you all have a festive holiday season!
It's never too late to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! Donations for 2019 are accepted year-round!