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Volunteers put hands to work to ease minds of sick children

October 09, 2005|By KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

With a little yarn, a dose of creativity and a lot of volunteer hours, Washington County Hospital Auxiliary members have found a way to ease child fears when it comes to visiting the hospital.

Through what's known as the finger puppet service, thousands of homemade knitted and crocheted puppets are delivered to children every year when they most need cheering up at the hospital or Robinwood Medical Center

"We feel certain that we are turning (children's) fears and tears into smiles," says Dot Landis, chairwoman of the service. "I've seen it work. It really is a worthwhile thing for the children."

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The hospital auxiliary started delivering puppets to hospital staff in 1987, after seeing a similar project work well in a Frederick County hospital. To date, thousands of finger puppets have been distributed to relieve young minds of thoughts of needles and surgical procedures.

While the service is continuing, Landis says they are in desperate need of new volunteers to help make the puppets.

Three women currently produce about 2,500 puppets each year, but the service previously distributed as many as 4,000 puppets annually.

The doctors and nurses "appreciate them," Landis says. "They are delighted to get them, but here lately our supply has been limited."

The finger puppet service "is a really good thing for children to get this little surprise when they come in for a treatment," adds Mitch Towe, director of volunteer services for the hospital. And it's also a unique way for people to volunteer without actually working in the hospital.

In addition to making puppets, people who like to knit or crochet also have donated their time and skills by making caps for infants or geriatric patients. Currently, the hospital is looking for volunteers to make shawls for patients to keep their shoulders warm.

"The main goal of our volunteers is to provide comfort to make the patients more comfortable," Towe says.

The homemade finger puppets come with poems to help cheer up young patients, Landis adds.

She and her husband have personally handed off puppets to children coming and going from the hospital or Robinwood.

"One day, it was in the hospital gift shop, parents expressed their gratitude for the finger puppet service because they were sure it helped their little boy," she says.

"It's a rewarding service," Landis adds. "You feel that you are doing something worthwhile for someone else."

For more information about volunteer opportunities through Washington County Hospital, call the auxiliary office at 301-790-8143.

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