A young Eagle Scout candidate from Kildeer provided pediatric patients at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge with just what the doctor ordered: toys to help soften the scary hospital setting.
Alex Hurrell, 13, and his parents arrived Thursday with their second delivery this month, bringing the total donation of toys to 1,034 games, stuffed animals and craft kits, for patients from infants to tweens.
"I had my tonsils out here last December," said Alex, a member of Troop 79 in Long Grove, "and I was really nervous going into the surgery."
He vividly remembers a child life specialist visiting him and offering him the chance to pick out a stuffed animal, which he did and it carried him through the ordeal.
"I still have it in my bedroom," Alex added. "I know that there are kids at the hospital that are sicker than I was. I wanted to make them feel better too."
Linda Bensing, one of the child life advocates on staff, said his toy drive came at the right time. "We get lots of toys during the holidays," she said, "but during August, September and October, we're bone dry."
She added that she and her staff members would go through the toys quickly. They will be offering them to patients in their 50-bed pediatric unit, as well as children in ambulatory surgery, the neonatal intensive care unit and to the hundreds of children who receive developmental therapies at the hospital.
"The toys help normalize the hospital environment," Bensing added. "And they get to bring them home, so they have something that is a positive connection to their health care experience."
Alex and members of his troop distributed fliers throughout Buffalo Grove, Kildeer, Long Grove, Deer Park and Lake Zurich. Drop-off sites included Sunset Foods and Hope Lutheran Church, both in Long Grove; the Ela Area Public Library and LA Fitness, both in Lake Zurich; Indian Trails Public Library and Kingswood United Methodist Church, both in Buffalo Grove, and Brilliant Sky Toy Store in Deer Park.
Hospital regulations prevented Alex from delivering some of the toys in person, since anyone under 18 is prohibited from having direct patient contact. But he came away satisfied.
"I really wanted to reach 1,000," Alex said. "That was just a goal I set, and I was a little nervous when we only handed out 500 fliers. But we had a great response."
Hospital officials described his project as both "awesome" and "ambitious."
"It's great to see the spirit of giving," Bensing said, "not just at the holidays, but year round."