CHEER-A-CHILD Brightening their day



Camp Fire USA members designed wheelchair lap desks and other projects for hospitalized children.
By VERONICA GORLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
ESSICA RICKER LIKES TO make crafts. She also likes to make crafts for other children.
"It's nice to know you made a difference in a kid's life," said the Austintown Middle School seventh-grader.
Jessica, 13, and other local Camp Fire USA members designed and assembled more than 3,000 toys or craft projects this year for hospitalized children.
"It's nice to know they're not just sitting in bed," she said. "It gives them something to do. If they have to go through surgery, it takes their mind off the surgery a little bit by giving them something to do."
Over the last 35 years, the members of Camp Fire USA have donated 100,000 items to local hospitals through the Cheer-A-Child project, said Barbara Smith, chief executive officer of Camp Fire USA Northeast Ohio Council.
About 120 members made items such as activity books, blocks, craft kids, puppets and games during meetings or at the Cheer-A-Child party in December, Smith said. St. Elizabeth Health Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland will receive the items in January to distribute throughout the year.
Added to recipients list
In addition, two new recipients -- Medina General Hospital in Medina and MetroHealth System in Cleveland -- were added to the list this year, Smith said.
"The word's getting out and we're being asked to make more projects," Smith said. "These kids get a lot of stuff in December because of Christmas, but they don't get a lot the rest of the year."
Chris McCarty, regional director of communications for Humility of Mary Health Partners, said the projects brighten patients' days.
"We're always excited and happy to receive them," McCarty said. "We know they're put together by local students and children. They're very unique things that are given. It's a public service for them, and it's nice for us to participate in that. It kind of benefits everyone."
The group's latest project innovation was wheelchair lap desks, Smith said. Camp Fire USA's Teens in Action and volunteers from Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield constructed the lap boards as part of their Day of Caring events. The desks, which are painted red and black like a checkerboard, can be used for checkers or as a table, Smith said.
Enjoyable project
"It took a lot of paint," said Jessica, who was one of the Teens in Action members who worked on the desks. "It started to smell after awhile. It was one of the better projects we did -- one of the less boring ones -- probably because I like to paint."
She looks forward to the opportunity to make art for others.
"It's one of my favorite events, except for the Monopoly tournament, of course," she said.
Camp Fire USA Northeast Ohio Council serves Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Summit and Trumbull counties. The program offers children through 18 years old opportunities to become caring, confident youth and future leaders, Smith said.

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