We Couldn’t Do Our Jobs Without You: Supporting Cook Children’s through In-Kind Donations
Child Life Specialist Ashley Pagenkopf shares the impact of in-kind donations from the generosity and kindness of our communities.
By Ashley Pagenkopf, MS, CCLS, Child Life Specialist at Cook Children's
Our Child Life teams utilize in-kind donations every day, all day. From stocking playrooms, celebrating birthdays, offering comfort, providing distraction, and meeting basic needs, donations are the backbone of serving patients and families.
Back in 2005, I began a Community Relations Internship at Cook Children’s alongside Kat Davitt, who at the time was the Community Relations Specialist. One thing has not changed over all these years: the generosity of the community is paramount to serving patients and families at the medical center. During my internship, I got a front-row seat to the vital role that donations play day in and day out. I also got to see the raw joy donations and gifts brought to patients and families.
Over time, the job titles, employees that handle donations and departments have changed. Currently, Megan Hodges-Cook is our Community Programs Coordinator within the Child Life Department. She serves in one of the most important jobs within our department – she collects, sorts, and distributes all our donations along with coordinating all our special events for patients and families.
Every day in the Emergency Department, I hand out Legos to the kiddo that just made it through a really difficult procedure or I bring a fidget to the kiddo that just needs something to keep their hands busy.
We hand out stuffed animals, playdoh, crayons and Hot Wheels to normalize the environment that otherwise brings anxiety and fear. Donations change the atmosphere and offer peace and joy amid the hardest moments in a family’s life.
“I’ve seen many patients who just feel awful, and the moment they receive a toy or art project, their demeanor changes,” Hodges-Cook said. “They can begin their physical healing because we have attended to their spirit and soul.”
Cook Children’s provides family-centered care, so donations are not only for patients but also for siblings and other family members. We also utilize donations to celebrate birthdays, holidays, milestones, etc. We have full-blown parties and have even hosted a patient’s wedding in our garden!
One of our donors provides birthday celebration items. Her gifts of wrapping paper, gift bags, streamers, etc. probably touch every patient that celebrates a birthday with us.
Hodges-Cook also shared this story about a donor: “We have a family who brings backpacks once a year in honor of their daughter. A year after receiving a backpack, another family mailed the backpack they received filled with similar items and a note describing how the backpack fulfilled their needs and lifted their spirits when they were in crisis. So the legacy of this little girl has started a domino effect of giving.”
“Hands down the best part of my job is that I am the only person who gets to witness the joy of the giver (because so many people are joyful in giving), the joy of the receiver when I pass out donations to patients and the joy of the staff who get to share donations with patients and families,” Hodges-Cook said.
We rely on donations year-round and use them throughout the system including outpatient clinics, urgent cares, neighborhood clinics, and within our therapy settings.
Currently, we receive 70% of our annual donations during December. However, because of this, we have gaps in our needs that often need fulfilling throughout the year. Our gaps include needs for specific age groups or high-demand items that go quickly. Infants and adolescents experience the highest gaps in donations.
- About 25% of our daily population is infants. Items like teethers, rattles, and Wubbanubs/pacifiers are one-time-use items and we often don’t have enough. We also need light-up infant toys regularly.
- Adult-sized items in clothing and adult coloring and activity books are always in short supply for our teens and caregivers.
- We have ongoing needs for clothing sized from Infant to Adult XXLG. We utilize many gender-neutral comfort clothing like sweatpants and t-shirts and underwear regularly to meet the needs of patients and families.
- Our high-demand items include coloring supplies, playdoh, decks of playing cards, sensory items (fidgets, kinetic sand, and slime cups), Hot Wheels cars, Lego kits, toiletries and clothing.
Some things to remember and consider before donating to the hospital:
- Due to the immunosuppressed nature of the patients we serve, we cannot accept used items. This includes any items that are in “like new” condition.
- Out of cultural humility to the diverse population we serve, we cannot accept religious items.
- We cannot accept items that are violent or rated anything higher than E for Everyone (video games) or PG (movies).
- Due to privacy and infectious control reasons, donors are unable to pass donations/gifts directly to patients.
- We ask that all donations are unwrapped so we can best match them to patients.
You are able to give online. You can use this special Christmas in July wish list: https://www.amazon.com/registries/gl/guest-view/2W1H6ULYM5O3L
In Fort Worth, you can bring all donations to the Main Entrance of the hospital located at 801 7th Ave, Fort Worth, Texas 76104 where you will find a donation bin. For any questions or to schedule a time to bring a larger donation, you may email email@example.com.
To make a donation at Cook Children's Medical Center - Prosper, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also donate to the Cook Children's Health Foundation here and designate your gift to Child Life.
Thank you for your generosity as a community! We are humbled to serve patients and families and recognize that we could not do much of our job without the generosity and kindness of our communities. Please consider donating knowing that you are changing the atmosphere of the medical center, and blessing patients and families immensely!
Get to know Ashley Pagenkopf
Ashley Pagenkopf is a Child Life Specialist in the Emergency Department at Cook Children's Medical Center. The Child Life program at Cook Children's offers a variety of services, all designed to make your experience at Cook Children's the best it can be. Our services include educating, preparing and supporting your child through tests and procedures, as well as coping with any life challenges you and your child may face. Child Life specialists work with kids and families to make their visit to the medical center easier and more comfortable. We offer your child and your family an opportunity to express and work through any fears and concerns you may have. We'll also provide an explanation about what's going to happen during your visit and work with parents, brothers and sisters and other family members who may be involved in your child's daily care.