Two young women were able to spread love to every child in seven hospitals across the state bringing smiles to the patients on Valentine’s Day.
Warren County natives Calista Vinson and Ginny Hodges, who are both 20, collected 1,150 valentine boxes for young patients at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Cookeville Regional and all five Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the state of Tennessee.
“I was in my pathology nursing class and the idea just popped into my head,” says Vinson. “I only thought about collecting valentines for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, but the outpouring of support resulted in more and more hospitals being added.”
Vinson and Hodges are in their third year as nursing students at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. They have been friends since sixth grade and are currently roommates. The ladies are members of the Phi Mu sorority.
Seventy-two other Phi Mu members and many of the fraternities at Tennessee Tech donated money and supplies in order to send valentine boxes to sick children in hospitals across the state after the two young ladies created the fundraiser.
“Everyone thought it was a wonderful idea, and the response was overwhelming,” says Vinson. “We only had two weeks to get everything together, and we ended up having enough valentine’s boxes to give to more kids than we imagined.”
The fundraiser is in memory of Hailey Ann Taylor, who passed away at the age of 15 from glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Taylor was a patient at Vanderbilt during her battle with cancer and is why Vinson and Hodges decided to first focus on Vanderbilt. However, since such a large amount of support flooded in, the girls were able to give the other six hospitals boxes too.
“I’m very grateful and thankful for all of the outpouring of support,” says Vinson. “We were very close friends with Hailey throughout middle and high school so we’re proud we get to keep her memory alive.”
Although some of the hospitals don’t allow candy or other items to be given to the patients, those that do had goodie bags filled with candy and extra treats accompanying many of the boxes.
“I hope the kids feel the love we have for them when they receive their boxes,” says Vinson. “We’re thankful all of the sisters came together to do something bigger than we could imagine. I’m just so grateful and proud of everyone who helped make Valentine’s Day special for so many kids.”