Giving back doesn’t just help those in need, but also has lifelong benefits for kids

Allowing children to decide where and how to focus their generosity boosts self-esteem, instills empathy and builds a sense of community

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The holidays are a time for giving back, but making a donation of time, items or money doesn’t just benefit those in need, it can also help children develop connections with their community, boost their self-esteem and instill a sense of empathy. 

“It’s something that parents and caregivers can begin very early on in life by talking to kids about gift giving and labeling the feelings that go along with that. How does it make them feel to receive a gift and what would it be like to be able to give a gift to someone else,” said Tammi Young-Saleme, PhD, pediatric psychologist and director of the psychosocial program for hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “It’s also important to allow kids to be part of the decision for where and how to focus their generosity and to find the right connection for kids based on their age and interests.”

Younger kids respond well to tangible gifts, such as making a card for a patient in the hospital or donating canned goods to a food bank. For older children, help them find a cause they feel passionate about so they feel connected to the impact their gift is making.

Young-Saleme has experienced the generosity of many pediatric patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who find meaning in their own experience by giving back. She recently accepted a donation on behalf of Nationwide Children’s from 14-year-old Jocelyn Green, a leukemia patient who donated her wish from Make-A-Wish to connect other patients with entertainment technology while they’re in the hospital

“When those kids go to the hospital, they probably felt the same as me. They didn’t want to be there and they know it will be super boring and painful, both physically and emotionally,” Green said. “So I’m really glad they get to have a little something to enjoy.”

 Nationwide Children’s Hospital is giving families who would like to donate this holiday season the opportunity to literally brighten the days of children in the hospital with “Light Up The Lawn, Light Up A Life.” An extensive butterfly-themed light display outside of the hospital will illuminate with each donation of $10 or more made through through the end of the year.


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Tammi Young-Saleme accepts a check from Jocelyn Green, 14, who chose to use her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to donate funds to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Jocelyn is undergoing treatment for leukemia, and Young-Saleme says she’s amazed by the young patients like Jocelyn who choose to give back after going through so much.

Gift giving doesn’t just help those in need, it also has health benefits for kids, instilling a sense of empathy and boosting their self-esteem. Experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommend involving kids in the decision of where and how to give so they feel connected with their gift and the impact they can make.

Jocelyn Green’s friends rallied around her after the 14-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia, not just in her cancer journey, but also in her generosity. Jocelyn decided to use her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to donate $10,000 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and her classmates matched that gift by raising money at school.

Jocelyn Green talks to her dad, Charlie about how it felt to donate her Make-A-Wish funds to Nationwide Children’s Hospital rather than doing something for herself. Jocelyn says bringing some joy to kids like her in the hospital felt better than anything else she could have wished for.

Butterfly sculptures on the lawn in front of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s will illuminate with each donation to the hospital through the end of the year, brightening the day of children who are hospitalized this holiday season.

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