Sarah Caito is the type of mom who’d give anything to anyone to try and make a bad situation “all better.” It’s how she was raised, and it’s how she’s raising her children.
In March, when Sarah’s daughter Anna was admitted for emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening abscess near the ridge of her eyebrow, it was a scary, uneasy time. There was little she could do to ease her daughter’s fears – a disconcerting feeling for any parent – but the Caitos were able to find comfort in the doctors, nurses, patient escorters, and staff they met at Cincinnati Children’s.
“All of us were treated with the utmost care and concern,” Sarah said. “Anna walked out of there a healthy and vibrant 9 year old. I cannot even express in words how I feel about the care she was given.”
So instead of words, Sarah and Anna decided they’d express their gratitude through their actions and “pay it forward” with a gift-in-kind.
The idea to give back to the hospital came to Anna after she had several positive interactions with members of the Child Life staff. During her recovery she was having a difficult time taking her medicine so a Child Life specialist came up with a challenge. If she took the medicine by the time he made it from her bedside to the toy closet, Anna could pick out a toy for herself. It’s a memory that stuck with her.
“This really turned around her medicine-taking. She still talks about that,” Sarah said, and Anna still keeps the little toy doll she received that day.
Toys were an important part of the healing process, making her feel at home and at ease. Her family remembers her care team using iPads for distraction when they put in an IV, and Anna remembered playing board games, like Clue. That memory also stuck with her, and a new kind of challenge was born.
“Anna came up with the idea to replace the game of Clue since it was missing pieces. Then she decided other games would need replacing, too. She asked her Papa and Grandma, then decided to ask more people,” Sarah said. “I put the challenge out there to our community and the response was amazing!”
Through an outpouring of support from family, friends and her classmates at her elementary school, Anna collected nearly 300 games and toys plus $350 in iTunes gift cards to give back to patients. Anna hopes that giving the toys and gift cards can help make things “all better” for kids who are away from home and going through a tough time at the hospital, especially during the holidays.
Anna’s discharge came two days before Easter, so her family can empathize with children who spend holidays in a hospital bed. In October, the Caitos donated costumes so that patients could pick one to wear on Halloween. Now, they’re filling 50 stockings with toys, handmade greeting cards and $10 gift cards to the hospital Gift Store so that kids can do a little shopping of their own before the holidays.
Sarah and her husband made their first donation years ago to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in memory of their baby girl and baby boy, Emma and Connor, after their passing. The family continues to find ways to give.
“We like to donate toys and books, costumes and gifts,” she said. “Anything that a child might be able to have at home that they are missing at the hospital.”
And anything that might help make a bad situation “all better.”