Pediatric team ships 200 Thanksgiving gratitude boxes

The UI Health pediatric hematology/oncology team, which usually hosts a Thanksgiving celebration and meal in November for patients, pivoted this year to send gratitude boxes to approximately 200 families.

“We were so sad we wouldn’t be able to have our Annual Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Thanksgiving Festival,” said Zayda Stewart, social worker in the Hematology Peds Clinic. “It would have been our 18th year. We always love dancing, singing, laughing, hugging and sharing a traditional turkey dinner with our patients and families. It surely brings us as much joy as we see on the faces of all of the children and their parents.”

On Nov. 20, the team packed the gratitude boxes to ship to families of patients who have cancer, sickle cell disease or blood disorders. Included in the boxes were donations from community organizations, campus units, employees, and more.

“We hope that these Thanksgiving Gratitude Boxes give our patients and families the tools, treats and inspiration to enjoy the day together,” said Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt, professor and head of pediatric hematology/oncology at the College of Medicine and a member of the University of Illinois Cancer Center. “Our supporters generously shared stencils, crayons, Uno cards, Girl Scout cookies, Jelly Bellies, stationery and gratitude books. The dental school tooth fairy even sent toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. We couldn’t have done it without the help of our medical and nursing students who called all 200 families to verify addresses, reached out to supporters, printed labels and helped fill boxes.”

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