No one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital. Fifty members of The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, Association 21/Southern Prince George's County paired up with MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center on Dec. 15 to bring "Operation Holiday Cheer" to children who find themselves in the hospital in the days leading up to Christmas.
For the second year in a row, girls from several scouting troops across Southern Prince George's County and parts of Montgomery County gathered in the solarium at the former Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton, Md. to decorate gift bags and fill them with toys, games, puzzles and other items donated by the hospital.
"The girls were really excited last year to do it and this year they hopped on the opportunity," said Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital Area 21 Membership Specialist Sheeleah Prince.
Danielle Grimes, a marketing assistant at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, said the items in each gift bag were chosen with a hospital setting in mindthey are things that can be enjoyed by children who are confined to a hospital bed, or who are killing time in the emergency room while waiting for a sibling or parent to receive treatment.
Nicholas Simonds, physicians services coordinator at the hospital, explained that Operation Holiday Cheer was a response to a request last year by the Girl Scouts to do something to bring happiness to children in the hospital.
"The hospital is a scary place and not really where you want to spend the holidays," said Simonds. "It's difficult for anyone, especially if you're a child, and we kicked around some ideas. Privacy laws limit what the Girl Scouts could do in a hospital setting, but Operation Holiday Cheer is something for kids, by kids. It takes a situation and makes it a little more cheerful. You'd be amazed to see the eyes of the kids when they get their gift bagsthey're not expecting it."
Doctors from the emergency room will deliver the gift bags, Simonds said. The toys, stuffed animals and other gifts were accumulated by the hospital over the course of the year and are separated into items for ages 3 - 7 and ages 8 - 12.
"This is great for the kids upstairs," said emergency room physician Dr. Heather Davis. "We see at least 50 kids a day."
Approximately 400 children will receive the gift bags between Dec. 17 and 25.
Tammy Templeton of Fort Washington leads Troop #006. She said the nine girls in her troop, in grades six through 11, were enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate.
"Whenever people ask us to volunteer, we're there," Templeton said.