A teddy bear is placed on the hospital bed of a sick child. A playroom is stocked with crayons, books and games. Babies have a warm blanket in which to travel home.
All these situations are thanks to a program and its founder who have been donating to Norman Regional’s Women’s and Children’s Department for about four years. Shawn Creger started “Critters for Kids” in 2006 with a donation of toys around Christmas time.
“It started off with a huge success when a Norman fireman brought me three big boxes of toys after learning about Critters for Kids,” Creger said. “My son Nathan and I felt like Santa Claus taking bag after bag of things up to the children. It was a warm and gratifying feeling.”
After speaking with nurses at Norman Regional, Creger decided to make Critters for Kids a year-round operation. Now the program provides new items for newborn babies up to patients in their early teens. Donated items include stuffed animals, games, and other toys for children and blankets, hats, body suits and gloves for babies.
The toys provide comfort to the patients and help form a bond between the nurses who care for them, said Mari Newcomer, RN, nurse manager at the Women’s and Children’s Department.
“If we can offer our patients a toy or stuffed animal it initiates a more positive relationship between the nurse and the patient,” Newcomer said. “The nurses are so appreciative of having a constant source of toys, clothes or stuffed animals to be able to give to our little patients. Often we will place the gift on the bed before the patient gets to the room so that they see this gift before anything.”
One child was very attached to a stuffed bear he was given. Nurses made sure when he got out of surgery, his favorite bear was waiting for him.
“Shawn’s donations have allowed us the ability to provide our pediatric patients with a toy to comfort and give them a bit of security or a pleasant diversion in a strange and often scary environment,” Newcomer said.
The toys are collected through a drop box at the Norman YMCA, where Creger works.