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If you have spent time in a hospital, you know it can be stressful and time seems to pass slowly. It’s a situation that could be challenging for most of us but is probably more so for youngsters who love to run and play. For that reason, Fresno EOC Foster grandparents signed up for this opportunity to brighten the lives of children facing medical challenges. They recently assembled nearly 2,000 Project Sunshine activity kits that will be sent to pediatric patients nationwide.
Project Sunshine is an international non-profit organization supporting children and families facing medical challenges through the healing power of play. One of its free programs involves sending activity kits to children in hospitals throughout the United States. Project Sunshine needed help assembling them, so they teamed up with AmeriCorps Seniors leadership in Washington, D.C., to create a volunteering opportunity for AmeriCorps Foster Grandparent Volunteers across the country.
Volunteers with the Fresno EOC Foster Grandparent Program typically mentor and nurture kids in Fresno and Madera Counties, typically in a classroom. However, this new partnership had nine Foster Grandparent volunteers putting together 1,940 kits for pediatric patients. Volunteer Specialist Raquel Padia says the Foster Grandparents were happy to be part of such a worthy cause. “When we explained to them where these kits were going, they were all for it! They worked on the project for two weeks and were dedicated to getting the kits done for the children.”
The Sunshine Mandala Kits focus on pediatric patients with behavioral health needs. The kit includes self-expression and self-care materials approved by behavioral health experts. They contain velvet mandalas for coloring, crayons, a Project Sunshine Journal, a velvet sticker sheet, and a Project Sunshine activity Brochure in a reusable bag. Foster Grandparent Linda Jaurique has been volunteering for two years. She said it was vital for her to be part of this project because she spent a lot of time in the hospital as a little girl. “I remember all of the people who helped me. I hope my small contribution to the kits will make a child’s day.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, a child may perceive hospitalization as traumatic because they are separated from their daily and family environments to face an unknown process. During the hospitalization, the child may experience fear, anxiety, pain, and uncertainty. Project Sunshine says arts activities not only stimulate creativity and provide opportunities for self-expression but also increase the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, lowering stress hormones and allowing the body to heal.
Foster Grandparent Program Coordinator, Leah Struck, says this project was extra special. “Our grandparent volunteers had to make sure every kit had one of each item in the bag, and they also created journals for the kits. They were inspired to complete them, especially because they will be going to children facing challenges. For example, it can be tough if you’re ten years old and sitting in the hospital for days or weeks. Our volunteer grandparents were excited to participate and spread a little sunshine.”
About Fresno EOC Foster Grandparent ProgramThe Foster Grandparent Program bridges generations as senior volunteers provide one-to-one mentoring and emotional support to underserved infants, children, and teens throughout Fresno and Madera Counties, promoting literacy and academic success and fostering social-emotional and cognitive-behavioral development.Foster Grandparent Program volunteers – referred to affectionately as Grandma or Grandpa – are matched with a young person who will most benefit from heartfelt attention or guidance through an elder’s precious pearl of life wisdom.The Foster Grandparent Program also promotes quality of life for seniors. A Foster Grandparent extends love and wisdom and devotes time and attention to mentor and nurture a young person who otherwise might not receive heartfelt sharing and caring. In exchange, the Foster Grandparent is afforded a rewarding opportunity to make a difference in the life of another, which in turn contributes toward an enhanced sense of purpose and self-worth.

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