“Bringing a Bunch of Smiles to Westchester’s Youngest Patients’ Faces”
Hanna Palmieri, a high school junior, has set up a donation bin at the Cross River Pharmacy to collect toys and art supplies for making goody bags that she assembles at her home and then donates to local hospitals and health care centers in Westchester. The goody bags are given to children served by the hospitals in Westchester County.
During the spring and summer, Hanna reached out to several local businesses to support her collection drive. The participating businesses that have collection bins in their stores include Cross River Pharmacy, Scattered Books in Chappaqua, and both locations of the children’s store All Together Now in Mt. Kisco and Tarrytown. Supporters are encouraged to either donate gently used items or purchase and donate new items such as children’s books, small stuffed animals, art supplies, puzzles, stickers, coloring books, crafting kits or sensory toys and place them in the bin.
Hanna named her initiative “Hanna Banana Bags” and she makes these goody bags from the fun items she collects. She delivers the goody bags to Northern Westchester Hospital, White Plains Hospital and Elizabeth Seton Children’s Center in Yonkers which is a residential facility for the care of medically complex and technology-dependent children. With each goody bag, Hanna includes a handwritten note of friendship and encouragement to make the goody bag more meaningful and personal for each child who receives it.
At White Plains Hospital, where Hanna made her first delivery of 40+ goody bags this summer, the donations go to patients at the Family Health Center clinic which primarily serves low income children in the area. At Northern Westchester Hospital, the items are being used to supply an activity cart that helps to entertain patients (both children and adults) to take their minds off of their stays at the hospital. Lastly, for Elizabeth Seton Children’s Center, sensory items are being sought to engage the children who reside there.
Hanna’s goal for this project is to bring reassurance and comfort to patients who are fearful while at the hospital. As she says, “I want to help children be less anxious about being in a hospital or going to the doctor. I understand that the hospital is not an ideal place, especially for children who love to move around and play. I want to create goody bags filled with activities to keep them busy so their minds aren’t focused on their surroundings.”
Hanna has created a Facebook page where she posts updates about her project (https://www.facebook.com/hannabananabags) as well as a GoFundMe page (https://gofund.me/3772f2e9) to raise money to purchase some of the harder to find sensory toys for the children at Elizabeth Seton Children’s Center.
Hanna got her inspiration for making goody bags during the pandemic when she was a summer camp counselor and bus monitor at Camp Nabby. When campers had to stay home because of a Covid infection or exposure, Hanna took the initiative to make each sick camper a goody bag and then drop it off at the camper’s home the next day. As Hanna says, “To see my campers smile and jump up and down with excitement while I waved to them from a safe distance made a big impact on me.”