When a child becomes sick and is admitted for a hospital stay, families often don't have time to think about things like packing a toothbrush.
But a handful of families whose children are being treated at Kadlec Regional Medical Center this holiday season won't have to worry about the things they left behind, because someone else has thought of it for them.
About a dozen children and teens Thursday delivered 20 care packages filled with toiletries, snacks, puzzle books and small toys to Kadlec's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for families who are putting all of their thoughts and energy into helping their children get better.
The teens are students in an entrepreneurship class that is part of the DECA Club at Southridge High School in Kennewick. They teamed up for a charity project with children from Cardiac Kids, a local organization that provides support to families of children with congenital heart defects.
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Southridge senior Jared Haeg said his team was assigned to work with Cardiac Kids, and has helped the organization raise awareness about its existence and the needs of children with heart conditions.
The team also helped with marketing for the American Red Cross' 12 Days of Giving holiday blood drive campaign, and the two projects converged into helping Cardiac Kids with donations to Kadlec's NICU.
Cardiac Kids founder Cathy Manderbach said the Red Cross used some of the Cardiac Kids' stories during its campaign to help community members make personal connections to the need for donated blood.
The local Red Cross asked what it could do in return for the children's organization, and Tricia Clary, a Cardiac Kids mom whose child spent time in the Kadlec NICU, suggested putting together the care packages, Manderbach said.
The Southridge students and Cardiac Kids assembled 20 packages each for Kadlec and Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where many of the Cardiac Kids have had surgery, Manderbach said.
"We team up and try to do good because it's therapeutic for the families, and the kids are getting old enough to understand they were helped at one time," Manderbach said.
Grayson Bergstrom, 9, of Pasco, is a Cardiac Kid who said helping families in the NICU made him feel good.
"We're giving presents to kids who need them," Grayson said.
Kadlec physician Dr. Roman Gavino told the children he was proud of them for helping others.
"Sometimes just this little bit makes Christmas better," he said.
The two groups still are putting packages together, and Haeg said he could see it becoming a year-round project.
Anyone interested in donating can contact Manderbach at firstname.lastname@example.org.