“These Presents are Unbelievable!”

December 27, 2012

A mother of a patient in the  University of Maryland Children’s Hospital said to her husband at the child’s bedside, “Honey, you’ve got to go down and see Snow Pile. These presents are unbelievable!”

Imagine spending Christmas in the hospital with your sick child. Perhaps you are separated from your other children who are at home and well, missing their sibling. One parent stays with the sick child, the other parent is at home with the healthy children. Parents feel torn as they try to care for their entire families in different locations.

This scenario is not uncommon during the holidays for parents at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. So the Child Life team established Snow Pile, a surprise shopping experience for parents of inpatients.

Now in its third year, Snow Pile fills empty room after empty room with presents for children of all ages. Generous corporate and individual donors graciously give presents so that families may “shop” at Snow Pile during the holidays and get a much needed break from the stress of holding vigil at a sick child’s bedside. Snow Pile enables parents to do their Christmas shopping without having to leave the hospital.

Snow Pile is just one example of how the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital tries to treat the whole family by acknowledging the needs of not just the patients, but also the parents and siblings who are all affected when a child is sick. Each year, Snow Pile serves 30-40 families. Parents are surprised to receive an invitation to come to Snow Pile, and many are in disbelief that they can “shop” without limit, for free, and have the gifts wrapped for their child. Snow Pile even provides stockings and stuffers for siblings of patients. This year Panera Bread catered the event, providing goodies for parents to enjoy while their presents were wrapped.

A special husband and wife couple, Bob and Mandy, volunteered this year at Snow Pile, wrapping presents and talking with parents of patients. In 2010, they were on the receiving end of Snow Pile when their son was a patient. They were blown away by the unexpected joy they felt from participating in Snow Pile. Since then, they have volunteered at Snow Pile each year and have turned Christmas into an opportunity for their extended family to donate gifts to the Children’s Hospital instead of buying gifts for each other.

For information on how to donate gifts for children throughout the year, visit http://www.umm.edu/pediatrics/help.htm.

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