Students assemble kits for parents of hospitalized kids

Nursery school teacher Blaire Hennick, left, and Diandra Budd, founder of TakeCare. (Jen Allison Photography photo)

In 2016, Diandra Budd created a non-profit organization called TakeCare, which donates “parent comfort kits” to caregivers of children facing unexpected hospital stays. Now, students and staff at Robbins Hebrew Academy (RHA) in Toronto are lending a helping hand by hosting a school-wide product drive and assembling the kits.

Parent comfort kits are donated to pediatric inpatient units, neonatal intensive care units and in-hospital Ronald McDonald family rooms. “Parents caring for a hospitalized child do not typically have the time or energy to practice self-care and ensure their own basic needs are met, since they are focused on their child,” said Budd.

The RHA nursery school students invited grandparents to help assemble the kits with products such as shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, body lotion, body wash, protein bars, cozy socks, inflatable neck pillows, adult colouring books, pencil crayons and notepads.

“As an RHA alum, it meant so much to me to see students at the place where I first learned about tikun olam and chesed and support TakeCare, the project I am so passionate about,” said Budd. “A grandparent came up to me and said they are never too young to learn and that he was really touched. Some grandparents even brought in product donations.”

Budd, 25, got the idea for TakeCare when she “was a student at Queens University. I was doing a placement at the child life pediatric inpatient unit and what I noticed was that regional hospitals were under-resourced, specifically for caregivers. While there was a plethora of donations of toys and colouring books and crafts admitted to hospitals, there was nothing for caregivers,” explained Budd. “Because they were regional hospitals, a lot of families were travelling 40 to 60 minutes and didn’t have the time to turn back at the end of the day to get basic essentials. It was just not cost effective and, for many families, … not feasible for them to go down to the pharmacy to buy products.”

Budd went on to pursue a master’s degree. It was when she returned to Toronto, as a researcher in occupational medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, that she revisited her idea for TakeCare.

“I started reaching out to donation coordinators, nursing staff, whoever I knew at local hospitals, and saw this really was something there was a need for,” said Budd. “It was crazy what a few emails and phone calls can do. Complete strangers had the capacity to donate product and money.”

To date, TakeCare has donated some 2,000 kits to hospitals across Canada, including SickKids, Mount Sinai Hospital, North York General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kingston General Hospital, Mackenzie Health Centre, Etobicoke General Hospital, Michael Garron Hospital, Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga Hospital, and St. Catharine’s Hospital in Ontario, as well as the B.C. Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in Vancouver and the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

“By the end of this year, we will add three new hospitals to our family of recipients. The donations we received from the product drive at RHA will help us expand our reach to McMaster Children’s Hospital, as well as Markham Stouffville Hospital,” said Budd.

TakeCare has become a family project. The kits are assembled in Budd’s basement, with the help of her parents, brother and boyfriend. “It’s my baby! When I come home from work, it’s all I’m doing. Whether it’s updating my website, doing social media posts or reaching out to contacts to connect me with someone at the hospital that will help receive our kits. It’s rewarding work and I love it. I want to do anything I can to help people feel more comfortable in a difficult time,” concluded Budd.