Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students aim to bring smiles to kids’ faces at Baystate Children’s Hospital

By Jackson Cote

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(Benno Kraehe/ Daily Collegian)

Stocked with superhero and “Despicable Me” stickers, multi-colored scissors, stationary and markers, members of UMass For The Kids got to work for the first time at their new holiday card-making campaign, working to lift up the spirits of struggling patients at Baystate Children’s Hospital.

UMass FTK—the largest philanthropic organization on campus, according to its president, senior George Liu—set up shop in front of Hampshire Dining Commons from Dec. 4 to 7, with card-making operations open to anyone passing through. The campaign was just one of the many events the organization puts on throughout the year in support of the children at Baystate, in connection with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a North American non-profit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals, medical research and community awareness of children’s health issues.

Throughout the year, UMass FTK raises funds and awareness for Baystate’s Children’s Hospital. Their year-long fundraising process culminates in a 12-hour dance marathon that the organization hosts in the spring, said Liu. He noted that the children at Baystate suffer through many different conditions, recalling a child he met last year, who was diagnosed at the age of four with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“My sister’s one of my best friends, and she’s only a year younger, so when I imagine a kid like her going through that, it really hits me hard. It makes you want to do something to give back,” Liu said.

Liu, who is receiving his bachelor’s degree with an individual concentration in health, marketing and entrepreneurship, was working on a card that said, “Happy Holidays! You’re awesome!”

“I’m not the most creative person in the world,” Liu said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to think of a more cheerful message to spread.”

On Dec. 14, Liu and other members of UMass FTK will be making a trip to Baystate to hand-deliver toys alongside the “Christmas cards, holiday cards [and] just cheerful messages” created over the course of the four-day event. It’s a way for the organization to bring some holiday cheer to Baystate, he said.

The mission of UMass FTK, according to their webpage on the Campus Pulse, “is to encourage collaboration between students, UMass Amherst and the Amherst community by working to raise awareness and funds for local patients and families of Baystate Children’s Hospital, in connection with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Through uplifting and interactive events we will foster a yearlong celebration for the kids.”

This is the organization’s first year of their card-making, said senior psychology major Kelley Trieu, who has been involved with UMass FTK for three years—as a dancer for the first two years. Now, she’s one of 42 members on the steering committee of UMass For The Kids, serving as the logistics and technology chair.

According to UMass FTK’s webpage, over the course of the 2016-2017 academic year, the steering committee reached their goal of raising $100,000, surpassing it and reaching just over $133,000. This year, they’re shooting for $200,000.

“This is our first time putting on the card-making event,” Trieu said. “I feel like we’ve made a lot of big changes, since we have the really big goal of reaching $200,000.”

“Our efforts have been a lot more full-force through the whole year, rather than later on,” she added.

Working alongside Trieu was Josue Medor, a freshman biochemistry major. Medor is not a member of UMass FTK, but was one of the many passersby who stopped to write and illustrate a card.

“The Christmas spirit is something that everyone deserves to have,” Medor said. “I thought this was a simple way to do that—just spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to the children who might need it the most right now.”

“I’m hoping it would put a smile on a kid’s face,” he said.

Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.

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