Small Accessories for Big Smiles

author of post

By Mindy Chu

Communication Associate

Headbands of Hope at UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Small Accessories Leading to Bigger Smiles

“Yes, we have plenty of items. Be cool, be cool.” Our team was nervous. It wasn’t just another day at the office. In fact, it was an experience we’ve all been excited about and planning for weeks.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of children are diagnosed with life-changing illnesses. These children are asked to be stronger and braver than imaginable, battling illnesses that most adults cannot even pronounce. And while they’re in the hospital, whether for short term treatments or long term stays, their daily life and routine is in flux.

Regardless of their struggles, however, they’re still just kids. With the same kid concerns, hopes, and dreams. That’s why Headbands of Hope is so important, and why taking time to be with these kids was such a priority for the team.

UC Davis: Headbands and Smiles

“Hey, can you grab the fabric markers? We need more supplies at this table.” We set up the playroom at UC Davis Children’s Hospital with headbands and flower crowns and a few fun coloring activities, and waited for a host of children to file into the playroom. Anxiously tapping our feet, we were ready to meet awesome kids and spend a few hours distracting them, somehow, from the illnesses they were battling.

We colored. We laughed and told jokes. We got severely schooled in foosball and air hockey, and clutched to the small portions of our pride that were left after being annihilated at Hot Wheels races and Lego challenges.

Even though we left with scoreboards against us in every direction, numerous children left the room with headbands that mimicked superheroes and flower crowns that reminded each of us, and them, of the beauty they possess. And, counted in more ways than by numbers, with smiles that promised even a bit of distraction from the pain that each child was feeling.

And that distraction, even for a moment, is all that we could have hoped for.

A Grand Year, A Grander Meaning

Where did it begin? In 2018, PSI partnered with Headbands of Hope to donate headbands at children’s hospitals across the U.S. Our partnership started through a corporate initiative called the “Grand Year”, which was a task to enroll patients in clinical trials. For every patient enrolled into a potentially life-saving trial, we also wanted to give something back to the communities that we work in.

We joined Headbands of Hope to kick off our teamwork at UNC Children’s Hospital with Jess Ekstrom, founder of Headbands of Hope. To start 2019, we spent time at UC Davis Children’s Hospital with the stock of headbands, flower crowns, and activity materials. In just a few weeks, we’ll head to another hospital with the hope to spread more joy and create another distraction, if even for a moment, for the incredible children there.

Looking Ahead: It Doesn’t Stop Here

When we left UC Davis Children’s Hospital, we learned that there are more needs when it comes to these little champions. Katherine MacDonald, the programming coordinator of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, talked about how events like these really help get the children out of their rooms and looking forward to social time.

“There is a major need within the program that often gets overlooked – donations for teens,” MacDonald notes. The Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department relies solely on donations, which can make it difficult to meet their more indirect needs, like gifts for teenage children who pass major medical milestones like completing chemotherapy or being discharged from the hospital.

Getting involved with both Headbands of Hope and the local hospitals was certainly driven from our Grand Year campaign. Moving forward, those partnerships will last throughout the years.

We All Have A Part to Play

We all can do our part to push for more smiles, to encourage hope, and to offer distractions from the painful illnesses that children around the world are battling. With more than 300,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year alone, there’s a lot of work to be done. And that large 300,000 number? Remember, that’s only in cancer-related illnesses. Factor in a few more diseases, and that number instantly skyrockets.

At PSI, we’ll continue partnering with Headbands of Hope to make an impact. And we challenge organizations globally to do the same. Because at the end of the day, it’s needed. And the smiles from something so small, will mean something so grand.

The UC Davis Children’s Hospital + Headbands of Hope event was attended by PSI teammates Tibor Kovacs, Andrea Cracraft, Ken Zib, Shaun English, Mindy Chu, and Kayt Leonard. Together, we are #PSIProud