General News
Posted December 24, 2013
Bustling Wonderland Toy Event Brings Relief to All Children’s Parents

Wonderland EventThe spirit of giving filled the air at the second annual All Kids Wonderland - and those on the receiving end couldn't have been more surprised or grateful.

Once again, the new holiday tradition at All Children's helped ease the minds of worried parents, allowing them to select from a wide array of welcome presents for their hospitalized young ones.

A large conference room in the Outpatient Care Center was transformed into a jaw-dropping toy shop for kids of all ages. Rows of tables were piled high with the kind of colorful goodies you'd find at any major store. Parents were given 10 tickets per child  to spend any way they wanted - 1-ticket items such as Nerf footballs, lunch boxes or little dolls all the way up to five-ticket goodies like dazzling new bicycles.

If they preferred, moms and dads could also opt for gift cards to area retail establishments - and an entire section was devoted to parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, stocked with practical gifts such as diapers, onesies, rattles and more. And talk about stocking stuffers: An entire corner of the room was stacked with stuffed animals - free for parents to take for their sick child and siblings.

The event began with an all-day Saturday set-up by members of the Child Life Department, which created and coordinated the event, as well as a brigade of 150-plus volunteers from the community. And it was in high gear Sunday and Monday, with some 250 families arriving wide-eyed at the sight of all the merchandise - including donations from more than 1,000 individuals or groups to help sponsor the event. 

Volunteers were on hand to assist the parents or answer questions, while another group of helpers in a separate room gift-wrapped all the presents parents had eagerly hand-picked.

"What makes me feel so good," said Child Life Director Kristin Maier, "is the dedication, the very unselfish giving of time, of gifts, of money - and just the sheer generosity and humility that people express in trying to serve the children of this hospital."

Those traits were on full display during the event.

"This is just amazing," said one mother, shopping for her teenage daughter who had been rushed to All Children's the night before. She worried how she would be able to get any Christmas presents this year for the girl or another daughter, but all that changed when she was invited to the Wonderland event. Suddenly, her basket was filled with such things make-up kits, art sets and gift cards. "This is just a huge blessing," she said. "I probably would only have been able to get them necessities, like a pair of pajamas or shampoo, otherwise."

Not far away, a father wheeled out a basket loaded down with toys - including a rocking horse, dolls and coloring books for his 3-year-old daughter who was taken to the Emergency Center with seizures during the night, and a slick new bicycle for her 7-year-old brother.

"This just warms my heart," the father said, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Her brother was at home crying and screaming because he wanted to come and be with his sister. The incredible thing is, the last thing I'd planned to buy him for Christmas was a bicycle -- I was going to go shopping for one today. I figured there was no way that would happen after last night, but then they told me about this event. And now he's going to have a bicycle after all."

That's the kind of thing that happens many times over at All Kids Wonderland, and what makes Maier and her staff - who worked long hours with little sleep to pull everything  off - know it was all worthwhile.

"There's been a lot going on in the hospital this time of year, unfortunately, with some really difficult situations," added Maier. "We've had families who are struggling with the moment, just getting through what's going on with their child. They were encouraged to come over and were completely overwhelmed. But this helped them to reframe and focus back on their child being a child. It really helped them to shop for the child that they're worried about right now, and it brought them a sense of hope again."