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Erlanger Health System

Hospitals can be a scary place — for lots of reasons.

Even in the best moments for seriously sick patients, an ounce of good news is gold.

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Jay Greeson

"Priceless," Ashley Zani, a child life specialist at Children's Hospital at Erlanger, said when asked about the value of joy for sick kids. "Not to be cliche, but there's no way to put a value on seeing a sick child smile."

In pursuit of that effort comes a gesture from some area folks to aid the healing process one smile at a time.

Mindy Sanders, owner of Threads on Signal Mountain, was the drum-banging leader of the movement to get Playtime Edventure sheets on every bed at Children's Hospital at Erlanger.

Every bed. All day. Every day.

That's more than 1,500 sheets to make sure the rotation between washing and using is always covered.

Truth be known, when your child requires hospital care, everything matters. And Sanders intimately knows both ends of that statement.

Her oldest son Colin was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, and she remembers the coldness of the truth — and Colin's room.

"Distraction for sick kids can be huge," Sanders said. "Colin was diagnosed when he was 15 months old, and when we walked in [to the hospital room] he was pulling my sleeve and going hysterical.

"There was so much going that he didn't know, but he didn't want to be there. That room was so sterile."

Enter Sanders and her band of helpers who hatched the scheme to fit the entire hospital with Playtime Edventure sheets. For those unfamiliar, the Playtime folks have a wide array of bedding options, from sheets with a checkerboard for checkers or chess to bowling and Tic-Tac-Toe. Each fitted sheet has more than 30 games on it and comes with washable crayons so kids can color on it.

She discovered the sheets while shopping for products for Threads in Atlanta.

It started as a business initiative, with Threads customers donating money or buying sheets that Sanders would take to Erlanger.

But as with a lot of noble efforts, that feeling became fulfilling. Sanders wanted to take the next step.

Which leads us to Wednesday, when all of the kids' beds at the hospital will have fun sheets.

"Anything that can help normalize the environment," Zani said, "is a great help. This is a really big deal This is such a generous donation."

The sheets are about $30, so the donations start to become really impressive in scale. Sanders begged and Facebooked and created a social media campaign that will culminate with more than 1,500 sheets being delivered to Erlanger this week, most of which were donated in Colin's name by his grandfather, Dr. Stan Sanders.

It's a gesture that Sanders knows is a gift to the past as much as it is for the future. And one that was done by the generous spirit of our town.

"Chattanooga is full of so many giving people and so many people willing to help," she said. "To be able to help in this, and help kids who are facing something so serious, is amazing.

Yes, yes it is.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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