Volunteers make Valentine’s Day kits for patients of Mattel Children’s Hospital
Volunteers sit around a table cutting out shapes from paper and writing notes to assemble into Valentine’s Day kits. These kits will be distributed to patients at the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and at a local convalescent home. (Anna Dai-Liu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Shaun Thomas
Feb. 10, 2024 8:21 p.m.
As thousands get into the Valentine’s Day spirit, volunteers are trying to make the holiday a little more special for the patients of the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
On Jan. 31, the Associated Students UCLA Volunteer Community hosted an event in Ackerman Union to assemble kits of written Valentine’s Day cards and handcrafted paper caterpillars for patients in the hospital. Volunteers also wrote notes for patients living in the Country Villa South Convalescent Center, located on the Westside.
Rami Vail, ASUCLA’s director of human resources, said the newly formed volunteer committee – which consists of ASUCLA employees– came up with the idea of hosting an event for children at the hospital. More specifically, the event was inspired by one team member’s experience visiting a convalescent home, where injured or ill patients stay for longer periods to recover, said Elizabeth Benitez Morales, ASUCLA’s human resources administrator.
“We’re organizing these kits for the kids so that they have something they can give their doctors and nurses and parents and whoever they want,” Benitez Morales said. “It’s something a little fun for them.”
Savannah Alvarez, a third-year biology student who volunteered at the event, said giving the kids unexpected small gifts helps them feel that others think and care about them.
Simone Rodriguez, a first-year education student who also volunteered, added that she joined to give back to the UCLA community and spread more kindness in the world.
“There always is a need for something. Everyone is struggling, and people need a smile or some kindness or extra love in their life,” Rodriguez said. “If anybody can just give a little bit, it helps overall for everyone.”
Similar to Alvarez, Jason Orr – a first-year physiological science student – said the event was valuable to him because it helps reassure and comfort the kids as they experience difficult times.
“Human connection is a really big part of community,” he said. “Helping these kids develop that connection – albeit through these letters – I think is really important to help form community as a whole.”
Vail said she thinks these events can benefit both recipients and volunteers, adding that she appreciated how people offered their time and resources to create a nurturing atmosphere.
“Even if it was just five minutes, know that it made such a big difference to somebody,” Benitez Morales said. “It’s going to make somebody smile, and hopefully, it made you smile.”
Benitez Morales added that in the future, she hopes the UCLA community will continue to engage with the group’s events, including an upcoming clothing drive.
Rodriguez said she loved being part of the event, adding that she hopes the children will receive the gifts with smiles.
“They’re so young, and they’re going through things,” she said. “It’s important that they experience the same joy and happiness that kids that maybe aren’t dealing with the same struggles get to experience every day.”