PJ Petersen is a student at California State University, Sacramento and an intern with Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region
When Rosie Carollo was hospitalized at the Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento due to a rare form of epilepsy at just 6 months old, she was cheered up by the toys, movies and activities in the hospital's Child Life Program.
After her passing in 2004, just shy of her second birthday, her parents, Nicole and George Carollo, were set on keeping Rosie's memory alive by giving back to the Sutter Children's Center located at Sutter Memorial Hospital after they provided such great care for their young daughter.
"When Rosie passed away, we wanted to do something in her memory to repay the wonderful care we got and to help out other children like Rosie in the Child Life Program," said Nicole Carollo.
While walking trough their neighborhood admiring holiday decorations and looking to get a few ideas for their own house, the Carollos noticed bins in front of houses for people to donate food as they too strolled down the street admiring the decorations. It was at this moment that the Carollos had the idea to have a toy drive in Rosie's honor.
After seeing how much joy that toys brought Rosie while she was in the hospital, the family decided the best way to honor Rosie and give back to the hospital was by donating toys to the unit in hopes of creating joy for other children during their time in the program.
The Carollos began their charitable toy drive in 2007 when they were inspired to give back to the Sutter Children's Center after experiencing first-hand the heartache of having a child hospitalized there, but at the same time were overjoyed with the care that the facility gave their young daughter.
This year marks the fourth anniversary of the Rosie Carollo Christmas Lights Toy Drive, which will be held from 5-9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, and is part of the Carollos' elaborate Christmas display at their home at 3961 Fair Oaks Blvd. in the Arden-Arcade area of Sacramento. New, unwrapped toy donations, as well as any cash or check donations, will be collected to give to the brave children at the Children's Center.
In the three previous years, this event has made quite a splash in donations. During the inaugural event in 2007, the Carollos collected 741 items and $236 in cash. In the three years of its existence this special event has collected nearly 2,500 items and approximately $3,676.
This year, the Carollos and the Child Life Program are requesting: non-fabric infant rattles and toys, board games, toy doctor kits, crib-side soothers - such as Fisher Price's aquarium or rain forest - arts and crafts kits, and comfortable slippers for school-aged and teen patients.
"The first year we did it, we had no idea it would become this big," said Nicole. "We just thought it would be a little toy drive."
Four years later, the Carollos look forward to the company of hundreds of Sacramento residents who gather in celebration of little Rosie's life and the life of every child cared for at the Sutter Children's Center.
"This is easily the happiest day of the year for me," said Nicole.
Guests and their families enjoy the elaborate Christmas lights display along with cookies, hot chocolate and even a special visit from Santa Claus. In addition, Sacramento firefighters will be there giving out official fire department stickers and coloring books.
The Carollo family - which now also includes 5-year-old Claire, 2-year-old Grace and 1-year-old Lily - has made it their lifelong goal to spread little Rosie's story and increase the awareness of infantile spasms. In the future they hope to set up a foundation in Rosie's name to raise funds for infantile spasm research.
If you would like to be a part of this event but cannot make it out on Dec. 12, the family is gladly accepting donations for the entire month of December at their doorstep located at 3961 Fair Oaks Blvd, at the corner of San Ramon Way and Fair Oaks Boulevard. For further information on how you can help, e-mail Nicole Carollo at N_Carollo@yahoo.com.
The Child Life Program is an important part of each child's hospital experience at the Sutter Children's Center. Child Life specialists work with the child, parents and hospital staff to make life as normal as possible and to minimize the emotional trauma to the infant, child or adolescent and his or her family. As a member of the health care team in both outpatient and inpatient settings, Child Life specialists provide essential life experiences for gaining a sense of mastery, for play, for learning, for self-expression, for family involvement and for peer interaction. The program also "employs" three full-time canine therapists as part of its Pet Therapy Program.
The Sutter Children's Center is a comprehensive children's "hospital-within-a-hospital" that offers on-site 24-hour pediatric and neonatal care physicians. It provides a patient- and family-oriented approach of more than 50 board-certified subspecialists and a full medical transport team. The Sutter Children's Center is nationally recognized as a center for excellence by the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions for its outstanding care for children. Additionally, the Sutter Children's Center is approved by California Children's Services and is the only non-university facility in Northern California granted associate membership with the California Children's Hospital Association. For more information, visit http://checksutterfirst.org/children/.