"Heartwarming" Efforts Make Big Impact

Helen Langer and Tate Goldberg feature story large

Helen Langer, pictured with Tate Goldberg, with one of her handmade quilts for Children's patients. Langer was selected as a 2011 Anna Clise Award recipient honoring her commitment and dedication.

Helen Langer of the Mary Ann Bothell Guild packed 177 pillowcases, 27 blankets and 16 travel pillows into suitcases last December. Since 1999, her guild has delivered similar suitcases to Seattle Children's every Christmas and Easter filled with items like these, which she and eight other members sew, knit and quilt throughout the year.

"We were told that there were enough pillowcases for each child at the hospital that day," recalls Langer.

Our guilds raise millions of dollars each year, making our volunteer network the envy of every hospital in the nation. And in keeping with a long-held tradition, guilds also meet a significant need through "heartwarming projects" - the collection or creation of items such as blankets, toys, books and toiletries that support our patients and their families while they are here.

More than 100 guilds donated heartwarming items to the hospital last year, organizing their own projects in addition to supporting the Guild Association's Operation Crayon Drive. Thanks to guild members, Children's now has a five-year supply of crayons!

A heartwarming history

Operation Crayon

Operation Crayon produced a five-year supply through generous guild drives.

Though separated by more than a century, the first guild organized by Anna Clise and current guilds are strongly linked. Within months of their first meeting in 1907, guild members had donated many essential items to Children's. "Today's guild members become part of a rich history when they participate in a 'heartwarming project,'" says Aileen Kelly, executive director of the Guild Association. "What started with collecting sugar, flour and other staples has grown into something amazing."

Longtime and newly formed guilds participate in projects designed to bring comfort to Children's patients and families. Members of the Ann Carlson Guild have been knitting hats and booties for nearly 75 years. The Clare Beckett Guild, formed in 2009, has already donated 4,000 crayons and nearly 400 toys through its partnerships with local businesses and schools.

"Our experiences as parents and patients at Children's inspire our projects," says guild president Judy Gaffney. "We've used the donated toys and crayons while at the hospital."

A simple addition goes a long way

Resourceful guild members find easy and creative ways to fit "heartwarming projects" into their existing fundraising efforts and already busy schedules. For example, stuffed animals decorate the tables at the Mary Ann Bothell Guild's annual auction, and guests are asked to make $20 donations to purchase more of the toys for Children's patients. "Stuffed animals were also the perfect answer to our auction's centerpiece dilemma," says Langer.

"Our goal is to give back for what we've been given, and make it easy for others to participate," says Gaffney. "A drive to collect toys is an easy way to give back." In addition to the thousands of crayons and toys it has collected, the Clare Beckett Guild has raised nearly $10,000 through a comedy show and garage sale.

Junior guilds also find simple ways to make significant contributions. When the Pearly Whites Junior Guild asked participants in its Turkey Trot fun run to support Operation Crayon, guests responded with nearly 6,000 crayons. The Eastlake Junior Guild holds two "heartwarming drives" each year and has collected 8,000 crayons and filled countless shopping bags with Beanie Babies, teen items and infant toys.

Kim Korte, director of Children's Child Life department, receives many of the items donated by guilds. "I am so impressed with guild members and the level of commitment they have to the hospital. They fundraise, volunteer, make things by hand and collect toys. I see the impact of each of these things daily, and it's truly wonderful."

Children's is always in need of "heartwarming items." If your guild would like to support patients and their families during hospital stays, see our current wish list.