If you’ve ever had to escort your child to the hospital for anything more than a routine check-up, you know that sometimes things can get downright scary. Blood draws, frightening tests, and even surgery are enough to upset most kids — and leave their parents feeling at a loss for how to calm them. But at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, kids are getting the comfort they need from a super cool source: handmade finger puppets donated from volunteers all around the world.
75,000 of them, to be exact.
Two years ago, the hospital issued a Facebook call-out for finger puppets, and have received so many since that the staff has literally run out of places to store them. Not that anyone’s complaining — IWK runs through 1,000 finger puppets a month with its young patients and with 75,000 on hand, they are definitely set for a while.
One of the hardest parts of parenting so far has been keeping my nerves in check while trying to comfort my son before scary medical procedures. Luckily, his recent surgery was at a hospital with a wonderful pediatric unit, staffed with kind nurses who understood all of my fears and comforted my son at every turn. But having a bunch of fun finger puppets at his disposal sure would have made the hours we spent waiting all the more entertaining (and probably filled with a lot less anxiety).
“Providing comfort items (like finger puppets) started quite some time ago!” says Kylene Mellor, CVA Manager, Volunteer Resources at IWK Health Centre. “We hear from people in their 20s and 30s who got a finger puppet here as a child and still have it!”
The finger puppets originally started with a group of kind women who enjoyed making knitted gifts and donated their cool creations to the hospital. It’s turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.
In 2016, when the hospital realized they were running low on the puppets, Mellor put out a request for more on Facebook — and to everyone’s surprise, the post was shared more than 12,000 times. In the last two years, the donations have kept flowing and flowing (and flowing).
“Our community has been extremely generous,” Mellor tells Babble, “We have donors from around the world and when the call went out, they answered! It’s also the incredible thing about social media — you post something once and it’s still being shared years later!”
IWK Health Centre clearly has a warm and friendly reputation that inspires generosity. Why else would volunteers from around the world stop at nothing to flood them with finger puppets in order to help sick kids feel better?
Mellor agrees, and tells Babble that the hospital is super lucky to have the volunteers that they do.
“Our donors have told us that they really enjoy supporting us in this way,” she says, “as they know how beneficial it is for our patients and families, to offer an item that can comfort, distract, provide choice for a child is really an amazing thing!”
Talk about a great way to show a hospital love and appreciation for the wonderful work their medical staff does each day — and a great way to bring a bit of happiness into a child’s life when they need it most.