Bags overflowing with gifts for children, a twinkling tree trimmed with ornaments expressing appreciation to the nurses who give so much, and a genuine spirit of care for Shands at UF medical center’s youngest patients filled the fourth-floor playroom last week.
“It’s our time to give back,” said Patti Behrns, wife of Kevin Behrns, M.D., the UF College of Medicine’s interim chair of the department of surgery. She, along with other wives of UF surgeons, delivered the gifts to Shands’ Child Life program on Dec. 17.
Mrs. Behrns encouraged the collection of toys in lieu of hostess gifts during the department’s holiday party, something she hopes to make an annual tradition to help benefit various local charities.
“You never know how it will touch someone,” said Mrs. Behrns, when talking about the small gesture of gift collection and the potential big impact it could make on a child this holiday season.
Shands at UF Child Life program specialist Naomi Martinez said donations are down this year, so the gifts were very helpful.
The child life program helps children and families cope with the stress and anxiety of hospitalization. Child life specialists are certified non-medical professionals who understand child development and provide interventions in an environment that supports normal growth.
“Our Child Life specialists do a spectacular job of decreasing fear and anxiety in the children treated in our Shands facilities and UF clinics,” said David Kays, M.D., an associate professor and chief of pediatric surgery. “These gifts from the department of surgery faculty, residents, and staff will really help Child Life in their mission. My hat is off to Patti Behrns for conceiving this terrific idea and carrying it to completion.”
Timothy C. Flynn, M.D., UF’s senior associate dean for clinical affairs and a professor of surgery, said the surgery department has set a wonderful example for other departments in the College of Medicine.
“I hope this becomes a tradition for all of us,” said Flynn.
Shands at UF Children’s Hospital is in need of toys for children throughout the year, officials said. If interested in helping, “Shands Child Life” has a wish list on amazon.com.