Thanks to a new branch of Santa’s workshop at the ShopRite on the Wilmington Riverfront, dozens of patients at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children this week continued a sweet Christmas decorating tradition – with a twist.
After a promised donation of gingerbread houses fell through, Becky Phillips, who handles corporate partnership and cause-related marketing at the Nemours Fund for Children’s Health, reached out to Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware and the Kenny Family Foundation.
ShopRite staff members couldn’t get the 250 gingerbread houses Nemours wanted, but they did think outside the cookie jar and developed a plan for 12-inch chocolate chip cookies, labeled, packaged with decorating supplies and individually wrapped, to meet COVID-19 and hospital restrictions. The packages were also quarantined for 72 hours at the hospital.
“We’re super grateful to help out and fill in,” said Ben Simon, ShopRite’s director of sales and marketing.
The elves included Shannon Graves, pastry chef at the Riverfront ShopRite; Michael Howard, the store’s manager; Pam Seymour, an associate who came in on her day off for the work; associate Mike McKelvey; and Cassandra Umile, who as manager of nutrition services and food production calculated the nutritional info for each package.
They were “’smizing behind the masks the entire time,” Heather Hook, executive director of the foundation, wrote on Facebook.
“2020 is a tough year to be a kid,” she wrote. “It’s an even tougher year to be a sick kid in A.I., when you are COVID-confined and only one parent can visit. This small gesture may make a big difference for the holidays this Christmas season.”
The packages included the chocolate chip cookie, icing dyed in different colors, candies, sprinkles and toy rings. “What kid doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?” Phillips asked.
Cookie decorating is part of Nemours seasonal activities, which also included virtual visits with Santa (with the patients in their individual rooms), story times and the music therapist performing at the Nemours Estate.
“We really appreciate such a generous donation of cookies, frosting and decorations,” said Melissa Nicely, the hospital’s child life manager.
“Having hands-on, interactive activities for kids to do in their rooms during the pandemic is really important, and it is always a bonus when it’s an edible activity! Our staff try to help families celebrate traditions as much as possible, and many families decorate cookies around the holidays. ”
Donations like the cookies help patients and their families celebrate, she said, “even when they are here in the hospital during this challenging year.”