4-Year-Old Giving Birthday Gifts to Kids in Crisis

Inspired by Sister’s Visit to the Emergency Department, Combined Locks Girl to Distribute Presents to Those in Need

When Tracey and Travis Bast brought their 2-year-old daughter Avery home after a visit to the emergency department at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah in December, their 4-year-old daughter Ella noticed Avery was carrying a new sippy cup.

Ella herself had received gifts from a visit to the emergency department when she was younger. “We talked to her about when she was little and got pajamas and a toy and a teddy bear,” Tracey Bast said.

This conversation, coupled with a moment when Ella’s 10-year-old sister offered to donate her Christmas gifts to a girl in her class, made a big impression on Ella. “We were driving in the car and out of nowhere Ella said that she wanted to give all her birthday presents to the sick kids in the ER so that they could feel better like her sister Avery did,” said Bast of Combined Locks.

Ella plans to have a birthday party April 7 with her 4-K class and her Wisconsin Dance and Cheer team – 26 kids in all – asking each child to bring a gift for the kids in the emergency department instead of for Ella. The items would be donated to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and given to the emergency department at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah to distribute. Community donations to help enhance the patient experience are given to the Foundations in various ways, including this special gift offered by one of the littlest donors.

“She’s four, and it truly comes from her heart,” Bast said. “She really wants to see kids get better and hopes that this helps a little bit.”

During the holidays, the emergency department often receives gifts of toys and other items from area community organizations – but never from a 4-year-old child wanting to donate birthday gifts, said Audrey James, supervisor for the department at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. “What I think is really special about what she’s doing is it’s the definition of paying it forward,” James said. “A donated gift was given to her and her sibling, and they appreciated it so much that now she wants to do the same thing for someone else.”

The emergency department uses new small toys, games, stickers or coloring books to help distract children from unpleasant moments or help keep siblings occupied. They’re very important to helping keep children calm and create a better hospital experience overall, James said.

“If we can give them something to help make that experience a little bit easier, that’s always appreciated,” James said.

When Ella delivers her special gifts, the department hopes to have the emergency staff who aided her sister on hand, plus a few extras.

“We’re going to be setting up some things to surprise her to make her feel really special, to give her a lot of recognition for how thoughtful she is, and to let her know that this is going to impact a lot of people,” James said.

To learn more about the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and the impact of donor support, or make a donation, please visit www.thedacare.org/Foundations or email Foundations@thedacare.org.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 31 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.