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Connecticut Children’s Brings Holiday Magic to Patients and Families

It takes a village to make the holidays merry and bright for Connecticut Children’s patients and families who have to spend these special days in the hospital. From Child Life Specialists and volunteers to donors and corporate sponsors, many individuals invested their time and caring so that patients and families could celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day.

Santa visits the NICU at Connecticut Children's

Heroes, Helpers and Toy Drives

At Connecticut Children’s, toys are more than just fun. In the hands of a Child Life Specialist, toys are important therapeutic tools to help a child understand a procedure they’re facing or as a distraction during a diagnostic test. This year’s Heroes & Helpers Toy Drop-off made even the North Pole jealous! One hundred and fifty volunteers spent two days greeting 257 toy donors, unloading cars, and sorting and shelving toys. 25,720 toys, to be exact.

Supporters dropping off toys during our Toy Drop-off Event

The giving didn’t stop there. Fifteen teams and 11 individuals held Virtual Toy Drives, raising nearly $17,000. These donations give our Child Life Specialists the flexibility to purchase items throughout the year based on the ages and interests of current patients. One of this year’s top individual donors was Tyler, a high school student and a Connecticut Children’s 2023 All-Star Patient, whose Virtual Toy Drive raised over $1,000. 

A big thank you to everyone who donated toys and volunteered their time! And another huge thank you to our generous Heroes & Helpers Toy Drop-off sponsors: 

  • Lia Auto Group
  • Nick and Karen Zoccoli
  • M&T Bank
  • Aetna
  • ImageFIRST Laundry Services
Volunteers from M&T Bank gather for a photo to help recognize our sponsors!

Patient Families Love the Snowflake Shop

For three days in December, the Family Resource Center became a toy shop extraordinaire. At the Snowflake Shop, volunteer elves helped 150 families, whose children were inpatient for the holidays, shop—free of charge—for gifts including toys, stuffed animals, pajamas, blankets, books, holiday-themed items and much more. Over 1,000 gifts were distributed, along with “to-go” wrapping materials and coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. Popular gifts this year were squishmallows, Barbies and sensory toys. The shop provided gifts for patients of all ages, from infants to teens—and siblings, too!

Being in the hospital around the holidays has been extra difficult for us. I know my daughter will enjoy everything we picked out today.

Snowflake Shop family, December 2023
Parents are escorted through the Snowflake Shop by their personal shopper.

“Thanks to our community of donors and our passionate staff and volunteers, we had a very successful Snowflake Shop this year,” said Lauren Turcotte, Child Life Specialist and Snowflake Shop Coordinator. “Parents and caregivers had the opportunity to step away for a moment, shop for their child and family and experience the warmth of the holiday season. We truly appreciate everyone who comes together to make this a special program!”

Holiday Celebrations for All

On each night of Hanukkah, menorahs were lit in the Family Resource Center and on each inpatient unit. Jewish families who were celebrating were offered traditional doughnuts, Hanukkah-themed window clings, dreidels, Hanukkah gelt, coloring books and handmade Hanukkah quilts and pillowcases.

Santa took a break from his busy Christmas schedule to hand out gifts and pose for pictures with patients and families—even our littlest patients, in the NICU. On Christmas Day, patients received Connecticut Children’s logo blankets and hooded bath towels.

During Kwanzaa, December 26 through January 1, kinara candles were lit daily on each inpatient unit. Fliers posted with the kinaras explained each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

On Three Kings Day (January 6), patients were offered a small box filled with “straw” and a gift in honor of the three kings and their visit to Jesus. The box also included a description of the holiday and how it is celebrated.

Santa visits the NICU at Connecticut Children's

Connecticut Children’s mission is 100 percent caring for kids and ensuring access to the best, comprehensive services that treat the whole child. That’s not only medical treatment. It’s also the care and comfort that come from celebrating important holidays, even when those holidays are spent in the hospital. Day after day, dedicated supporters like you help make this mission possible.

137,737 kids are cared for each year at Connecticut Children’s.

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