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Spreading cheer despite a pandemic

Community groups, organizations adjust to safely bring joy to young patients receiving care at OHSU Doernbecher this season
A large plush Grinch (stuffed Dr. Seuss character) and colored lights decorate a Christmas tree; an oversized decorative candy cane leans against the wall
The Healing Hunter Foundation helps to safely bring holiday spirit to the OHSU Doernbecher oncology unit. (OHSU)

While ‘home’ has become a far too familiar place for many of us this year, unfortunately, some children across Oregon and Southwest Washington will still yearn to be home with loved ones this holiday season; instead, many will celebrate the magic of the holidays at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

According to Rebekah Coles, CCLS, interim manager of the Child Life Therapy Program at OHSU Doernbecher, the hospital can be a scary, stressful and isolating experience, especially during holidays or special events. To help lift the spirits of young patients, the month of December is traditionally filled with various toy donations, special community guests and volunteers decking the halls with lively decorations.

While things may look a little different this year at OHSU Doernbecher due to COVID-19, thanks to the continued support, generosity and creativity of community members and organizations across Oregon, these holiday traditions are still able to carry on, albeit in a slightly modified way.

“In a time that has been difficult for so many people, it is inspiring to see the ways in which our community has come together, once again, to show its continued support for our most vulnerable patients,” says Coles. “This type of compassion reminds our patients and their families that they are never forgotten. We are so grateful for this kindness that is felt not just in December, but all year round.”

From drive-thru toy donations to virtual games and crafts, following are just a few ways community groups have adapted to safely bring the excitement of the holidays to OHSU Doernbecher:

Peacock Lane relocates

For nearly 90 years, the residents of Peacock Lane – a quaint neighborhood located in southeast Portland – have voluntarily decorated their homes with sparking lights, nativity scenes and fun life-like replicas of colorful characters. Traditionally, thousands of visitors flock to the lane each season to take in the sight. However, due to the pandemic, Peacock Lane made the difficult decision to forego its display to protect the health and safety of its visitors. The good news is, the annual institution still lives on at OHSU Doernbecher.

Peacock Lane neighbors have graciously loaned select elements of their beloved exhibit to the children’s hospital for the 2020 holiday season. Twinkling lights now adorn outdoor courtyard areas across the hospital and may be seen – each night - by patients, family members and hospital staff.

Spirit Mountain Casino trucks in toys

The practice of filling a semi-truck with toys and delivering it to OHSU Doernbecher has become an honored tradition for Spirit Mountain Casino, its Coyote Club Members and hospital staff for more than a decade. When, COVID-19 health and safety measures prevented casino members from participating in the 13th annual toy drive earlier this month, Spirit Mountain stepped in and directly purchased more than $20,000 worth of toys, games, books and crafts that will not only bring smiles to OHSU Doernbecher patients this holiday season, but all year round.

Healing Hunter Foundation delivers joy

Lenore Davis-Thawley is a familiar fixture at OHSU Doernbecher during the holiday season. She spent a lot of time there after her son, Hunter, was diagnosed with cancer. Now, each year – in Hunter’s memory – Davis-Thawley and volunteers from the Healing Hunter Foundation decorate the OHSU Doernbecher oncology unit with festive flare to help provide joy to young patients and their families. This year, instead of transforming the unit personally, Davis-Thawley delivered boxes filled with Dr. Seuss-themed holiday decor to the nursing and Child Life staff who helped to enliven the unit and bring smiles to patients receiving care.

OHSU Doernbecher is grateful to all of the people and community groups that have donated toys, blankets, music, decorations and so much more this season.

Interested in ways you can help? More information about giving to OHSU Doernbecher and its patients is available here.

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