It’s no secret that nurses are hardwired to help, and we know that instinct extends beyond their time on the clock. So it was no surprise when a team of Sharp Grossmont Hospital nurses, looking for a project to give back to the community, chose children and families living with HIV and AIDS as their benefactors.
Through Christie’s Place, a nonprofit that helps meet the needs of these families, they discovered there were more than 500 affected children living in the community. Working with Christie’s Place for the past three years, Sharp Grossmont now pulls off its annual Backpack Drive, which encourages team members to donate children’s backpacks, stuffed with important school supplies, just in time for back-to-school season.
To kick-start the drive, Sharp Grossmont’s nursing units promote the project hospital-wide to all staff. Lists of specific school supplies needed for a child’s or teenager’s age and grade level are available, ensuring they get what they need for academic success. The backpacks are stored throughout the hospital until the big day arrives when they are hauled outside and loaded into Sharp vans for delivery at a special back-to-school party in Balboa Park.
This year, more than 270 supply-furnished backpacks found their new owners at the event. “One little girl ran up to me and hugged me, with tears in her eyes,” says Melodie Daniels, the clinical nurse specialist who spearheads the annual project. “She said, ‘You don’t know how much it means to me to go to school looking like all the other kids.’” Some backpacks contain bonus items, like an outfit for that all-important first day of school, or a note reminding them to “Study hard.”
Erin Falvey, executive director for Christie’s Place, says both components — the backpack and supplies, as well as the event — play equally key roles.
“The majority of our clients are living in poverty, and would never have an opportunity to buy these items,” says Falvey. “On the first day of school, they get to wake up and know they’re going to have the coolest backpack in class filled with everything they need.”
Daniels says she doesn’t know who has more fun — the kids or Sharp Grossmont staff.
“We might get the most out of it because we’re able to do something that actually makes a difference,” says Daniels. “When you give money to something, you don’t always know where it goes, but with this project, we know that 100 percent of what we’re giving goes to those kids.”