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March 11, 2013

Donated totes help occupy children at hospital

By Cheryl Petersen
The Daily Star

---- — Parents and guardians are savvy to the fact that little children can get the wiggles. Therefore, a small arsenal of gadgets and snacks are stocked in pockets, purses and briefcases. When taking children out of the home, and coming upon a circumstance where the wiggles get wiggling, the items are pulled out and handed to the children. The diversion settles them down. But, there are those rare occasions when parents get caught off guard and find no diversion, no gadget. One such place and time could be at the hospital, waiting for an appointment. 

Wanting to assist with the wiggle cases, the Delaware County Beta Omicron Chapter began delivering totes to the O’Connor Hospital. 

“We first discussed the tote idea with management at O’Connor,” group President Pam Thompson said. “They agreed to try five totes as a pilot test.”

The totes are handcrafted bags, sewn by members of Beta Omicron. Each bag contains a few items such as a reading book, coloring book, crayons, flash cards or an educational toy. 

The first five totes were distributed to the Central Registration Station last month. Head Registrar Cindy Bartow kept the totes in the back.

“During those pinch times, when the waiting was becoming unbearable, we gave a tote to a child,” Bartow said. “One time, a child had to wait for an anesthesia consult before a tonsillectomy.” 

Between the fear of the unknown and the need to wait patiently, the child was getting antsy, she said. Bartow went to the back and returned with a tote. After giving it to the child, Bartow said she watched with amazement as the child started reading a book. 

“He got so involved in the story that he went on to breeze through the consult unafraid,” Bartow said. Eventually the time came when more totes were requested from the Beta Omicron Chapter.

What began as a test has developed into the “Gifts for Kids” program at O’Connor Hospital. 

“This last weekend, the chapter delivered the 25th tote,” said Amy Beveridge, manager of Fund Development at O’Connor. “We now also keep totes at the Hospital Emergency Room and Delhi Health Center.” 

From a professional standpoint, the fact

that the tote and its contents goes home with the child keeps safety and cleanliness as a top priority at the hospital, she said.

The items don’t serve as a source of infection because they stay with the child.

It is no wonder that women educators provide the “Gifts for Kids” service. “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Thompson said. Thompson taught English at South Kortright Central School for 32 years. Now retired, and as president of the Delaware County Beta Omicron Chapter, she said she and her co-members are always on the lookout to connect children with reading and education.

“Our mission is to promote excellence in education,” Thompson said. “The chapter has 40 members from 10 local area schools and institutions.” 

Over half a dozen members are set up to sew the totes, she said, with everyone collecting the educational items to place in the totes. The Beta Omicron Chapter is also always looking for gently used books to pass along.

The Beta Omicron is under the umbrella of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, established in 1929. According to the group, members nurture the objective to improve opportunities for qualified women employed at every level of education, as well as advance the status of women educators. 

“It’s been wonderful to see this simple tote idea make such a great impact,” Beveridge said. “We plan on having the totes at the new Andes Health Center when it opens the end of March.”