Bejeweling Kids at the Castle of Care
When friends Emma Houwman and Haden Cotter, both 12, get together, they have to get out the glitter.
The two sixth-grade girls work together during afterschool play dates or quiet weekend afternoons to create one-of-a-kind creations: stretchy headbands with sparkly patterns, tiny knit caps with huge colorful flowers, bright hairclips and bows in nearly every color.
Each one is different – just like the girls who will receive them: patients at Sanford Children’s Hospital, says Emma. She and her friend are simply looking to brighten the days of children who may need just a bit of glitter in their lives, she says.
“We just want to make a difference and try to do something for kids who are sick or hurt,” says Emma. “Everybody is special and this is something we can do that is special for them.”
Inspired by a friend
The idea for the project came from the girls’ friendship with a classmate who spent many days at Sanford Children’s Hospital. J.P. Peters was born with a rare disease, called Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy, a rare genetic condition with fewer than 600 diagnosed cases worldwide, and spent most of his 12 years fighting immune deficiencies and kidney disease.
Both Haden and Emma, and all their classmates, knew that J.P. made the most of life everyday, says Emma. He never let the genetic disorder stop him from doing what he wanted to, whether that was playing baseball or simply greeting his friends in the hallways of St. Mary’s Elementary School with a hug.
“It was so fun to see him at school,” says Emma. “He was really important to all of us.”
J.P. was also well known to Sanford Children’s staff, having stayed at the Castle of Care™ many times over the years. He often fought respiratory infections and a whole series of health problems caused by HSAN.
On Feb. 16, 2013, J.P. died of complications as a result of influenza. The girls knew they needed to find some way to honor their inspirational classmate’s memory.
Thinking of others
“Emma had such a special connection with J.P.,” says her mother, Robin. “Within a few days of his passing, they began to talk about how many other kids there are and how their lives are affected by spending so much time in the hospital.”
The girls decided they would do something to help other children like J.P. who may face a few days or even months away from home in a hospital room.
Working together in their spare time, Haden and Emma filled a box full of colorful, sparkly hair accessories to fit girls of a variety of ages, from newborn to teen.
They then wrote a letter to Sanford Children’s Hospital, thanking hospital staff for taking such good care of their friend asking if they could donate something to help other children. On March 22, they delivered their first box of headbands and bows. Since then, they’ve been working whenever they have time to create more.
“We were just so excited to help,” says Emma. “They said the kids enjoyed them and really thought they were cool.”
Since then, the girls have continued to work to make more unique hair bows, headbands and fancy hats for Sanford Children’s patients. It takes plenty of glitter and plenty of time to make each one different, but it’s worth it to think about the difference it may make to the girl who will wear it someday, Emma says.
“Nobody should be treated differently just because they’re sick,” says Emma. “It’s a little thing, but we hope we can make a difference.”
A lifelong lesson
Her mother says the girls never expected any attention for what they did. They simply were looking for a way they could help. And she’s more than happy to pick up another spool of bright ribbon, a bag of rhinestones or a headband to decorate.
“It takes a lot of glitter. We’re always running out of glitter,” says Robin, with a smile. “I’m so proud of them for taking the step of learning about these other kids and doing something to help. They’ll always remember what they’ve learned about giving back to other people.”
Posted Date: July 2013