To celebrate his 7th birthday and another year being cancer free, Briggs and his family carried just more than 700 of colorful totes into the hospital on Tuesday, each packed with a box of crayons, markers, a little stuffed animal and a toy to lift a kid’s spirits when they really need a fun distraction.
Amanda Ward, manager of the hospital’s Child Life Program, said most of the lunchboxes go out as “prizes” to children receiving care not just in the hospital but also in its pediatric emergency department, clinics and all of its subspecialty offices.
“It helps,” Ward said. “They’re happy and excited when they get them. And it brings them joy for a minute or two not to think about medicine or pokes or all the yucky stuff about (being in) the hospital.”
And for children who return regularly for treatment, Ward said the colorful nylon totes are also a helpful tool. They’re insulated so they can be used to carry medicines that must stay refrigerated. Ward often sees kids carrying them back in with their medications, or with toys and comfort items or even with their lunch.
Briggs mom, Tiffany, said Lunchbox Love started seven years ago as a way to give other families the same kind of support their family received during Briggs’ early battle with cancer.
The first year, she said, they packed about 20 of the gift-filled totes. Since then the project has grown annually to Tuesday’s grand total of nearly 4,000 over the seven years. And all of it, Tiffany said, has been made possible by donations from family members, people from church, local companies and a lot of people who learn about the project on social media.
“Most of it comes $20 at time and most of it comes through from social media, people we know and people we don’t know. So it’s a whole community project,” she said.
“I hope it makes them feel happy,” said Briggs, who has set a goal of 800 lunchboxes for next year’s celebration of his 8th birthday.