How to give back: Some do’s and don’ts for giving to a sick child

November 26, 2013 | by

Hospitals nationwide often depend on donations to supply their patients with holiday gifts.

Hospitals nationwide often depend on donations to supply their patients with holiday gifts.

The first in a series about how to give, and give back, during the holiday season ...

There’s something about the holiday season that brings out people's charitable side. It makes them want to "give back" — especially when it comes to sick children.

Hospitals nationwide often depend on such holiday generosity not only to help supply their patients with gifts, but to spread holiday cheer. For patients and families spending the holidays in the hospital, that cheer can sorely be needed.

But before you venture out in the holiday madness to purchase a gift for a hospitalized child, remember that not every toy is suitable for pediatric patients.

We asked City of Hope’s pediatrics business director Tami Case what the well-meaning among us should give — and what they should avoid.

First, here’s a list of what not to donate:

  • Stuffed animals/plush toys: At City of Hope, stuffed animals and plush toys are strongly discouraged. A number of patients suffer from weakened immune systems and these toys can easily trap dust and other substances that can potentially make the children even sicker.
  • Used toys: Even toy collectibles that haven’t been opened, but have been sitting in a closet collecting dust, can carry germs or other materials that can potentially harm a patient.
  • R-rated movies: While these types of movies may be suitable for older patients, only G and PG movies are permitted for pediatric patients at City of Hope. PG-13 movies are permitted for adolescents and young adults.
  • M-rated video games: All of City of Hope pediatric inpatient rooms have a Play Station console for their entertainment. Patients love new games, but only E- and T-rated games are allowed.

If you’re unsure what to buy, go with a gift card. Case said gift cards are often needed by families.

“One of the biggest blessing for us is gift cards,” she said. “We can give one to a mom to buy groceries or baby formula; we can give gas cards to families who need help paying for transportation to get here; and we can use them for families who just need some help for basic needs.”

Among the most-needed cards are for those for gas stations, Target, Walmart, grocery stores, Toys “R” Us and iTunes.

But if you prefer to give presents, consider LEGO kits, doctor kits, developmental toys, Barbie dolls and craft supplies — all are great ideas for younger children in the hospital.

For adolescents and young adults, consider journals, nail polish, poker sets, video games (Wii games or PS3), iPods, scarves and trendy hats.

If you’re still not sure what to give, Case suggests asking your kids. “Buy what your kids would want. They’re no different, they just happen to be sick in a hospital,” said Case.

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At City of Hope, toys and gift cards can be dropped off — preferably unwrapped, to ensure they're appropriate for the child — at the desk of the pediatrics department or at the front desk in the main medical building. Please label donations to the pediatrics department or to Katie DuBois.

To make sure gifts are given to the children in time for the Christmas holiday, please make holiday-themed donations by Dec. 18.

For more information about donating gifts during the holidays to City of Hope, please contact Katie DuBois at 626-930-5430 or kdubois@coh.org.