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    Student Employees Visit Children’s Ward

    By: Deborah Gardner

    Many people become satisfied with making a donation at places that offer the option to give money to any organization being benefited. A local Food Lion has teamed up with The Children’s Hospital at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in order to get a deeper understanding for how far a single dollar could go. One of the managers at Food Lion thought it would be a more humbling experience if the people who wanted to, visited the children’s ward at the Medical Center.

    The Food Lion participants have been carpooling to the Medical Center as of Sept. 19.  The manager of the Food Lion Heather Scott has set up with Rachel Bruni, a Children’s Miracle Network representative, tour dates that Food Lion workers will be going to volunteer in helping the children.

    “I started this because everyone had a lack of enthusiasm and it was a little disheartening to see that,” Scott said. “And also, to raise more money for the children.”

    Scott felt that it was important for her associates to realize the money they were raising was more than just a donation.

    “We also wanted to see where our money went to and to see how much of an impact we had on the children around us,” Scott said.

    In addition to seeing the children at the ward, they also toured the hospital and were the first group to tour the trauma center that the money raised had provided.

    Helonia Gowans, a Food Lion employee, passes off proof of donation to customer Shawn Fitzpatrick. Photo by Deborah Gardner.
    Helonia Gowans, a Food Lion employee, passes off proof of donation to customer Shawn Fitzpatrick. Photo by Deborah Gardner.

    “It was cool seeing the rooftop garden on the top of the building because it gave the kids somewhere to go besides their rooms,” worker Helonia Gowins said.

    These experiences give people inspiration and hope for other things.

    “It inspired me to be more persistent in asking for donations because we got to see where the money went to,” worker Kristi Barnhill said.

    One of the workers in particular felt a personal connection after the first day of visiting the hospital.

    “The sentimental connection that I had with the trip was just being there because when my little brother was six, he was treated in the same spot (VCU Medical Center),” Gowins said.

    She also recalled another moment she had after her arrival.

    “The most heartbreaking moment was seeing a little girl with a ventilator in her chest,” Gowins said.

    One of the workers, Brianna McKay, has been working at Food Lion for a year and two months.

    “I used to not ask people to donate but now I take the initiative to ask people because now I know for a fact it is saving people’s lives,” McKay said.

    It is important for something that would have a lasting impact on more than just one group of people to continue in the future.

    “This is our first year, but as long as I am in this position, I plan on doing this yearly,” Scott said.

    Scott has only gotten approval for her Food Lion workers to visit and volunteer for the Children’s Ward but whoever wants to make a contribution to the hospital is able to donate.

    “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the trauma center,” Heather Scott said. “My group was the only group that visited the center the Food Lion built with the donated money,”

    The visits overall not only bring a sense of relief and hope to the kids at the hospital, but also a better understanding to anyone donating of what a small donation can build up to.

    “Visiting the Emergency Room, which was designed specifically for the children to make them feel more at ease, was important because the hospital is not supposed to be a scary place,” Barnhill said. “It is a place for the children to get well.”

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