On December 16th, 2016, I had major surgery at University Hospitals’ Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital for external tibial torsion of 25 degrees. It was 8 days before Hanukkah, 9 days before Christmas, and 6 days before my birthday. In other words, the hospital was the last place I wanted to be during that time. I was missing out on the last days of school before winter break, celebrating the holidays with my family, decorating and seeing the displays in my city, and more. The winter holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year with the lights being one of my favorite parts. The lights are always full of extraordinary beauty and are a source of comfort for me which is why I brought a strand of lights with me to the hospital to string around my bed during my stay.
During my stay, the lights brought me a source of comfort that was hard to find in the hospital. They brought me comfort, joy, and cheer at a time when I was lacking in all three. The lights also proved to have the added benefit of helping the nurses during the night. The lights gave the nurses enough light to see during the night while checking on me without having to turn on the light above my head and wake me up. The lights made my hospital stay a little bit easier.
Knowing the impact of the lights from the first-hand experience, when I got discharged, I left my lights with a boy across the hall who, instead of spending Christmas at home with his family, was stuck in the hospital through the holidays. When I gave him the lights and a card, a smile spread across the faces of the boy and his grandmother. I knew that the lights were going to have a similar effect on him as they did me. From that moment, seeing the comfort and happiness the lights gave the boy, I developed my goal and mission to give the same comfort and happiness to as many children staying in the hospital as possible. From that goal and mission, Lights for Kids was born.
In October of 2017, I was sitting in my Freshman English class thinking about my hospital stay ten months earlier. I was thinking about the lights and wondering where they were at that point. How many more children did they help? How can I help more children experience the same benefits from lights? From these questions, I began scribbling down an idea on a piece of paper and passed the paper to my friend. I asked her if creating an organization to donate lights to University Hospitals’ Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital was an idea that was something that I could do and she said yes! From there I reached out to my mom and to administrators of my school. I continued to pursue my idea and changed it from an idea to a reality. Since then, Lights For Kids has been growing tremendously each year and in 2019, with the help of my mom, friends, and supporters, I made it into an official 501(c)(3) organization. We have also extended our donation periods from just during the winter holiday season (November to January) to sending donations all year. We have also grown to donate to other hospitals including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Akron Children’s Hospital, and more. We are working hard to keep expanding the reach of our organization by shipping lights to hospitals across the United States and our goal is to reach as many children as possible with lights.