A couple years ago, IWK Health Center in Halifax, Canada was running out of the finger puppets used to keep younger patients distracted and happy. But thanks to volunteers from all over the world, they have all they need and then some.
For over 20 years, the women’s and children’s hospital has accepted finger puppets that have been sewn, knitted, or crocheted. They are readily available in the hospital, helping patients to pass the time or comfort them during painful procedures.
“Oftentimes people don’t have a choice (about) why they’re coming to the hospital,” explains Kylene Mellor, who manages volunteer resources at the hospital. “But in this small thing, they can look in a bucket and take whichever one appeals to them. So it’s a lot about that empowerment and that choice.”
In September 2016, IWK began running low on finger puppets. Mellor asked volunteers via Facebook to help the hospital restock its supply. Her post was shared over 12,000 times and before she knew it, IKW had more finger puppets than it could store.
A year later, Mellor had to ask volunteers to hold onto any finger puppets they may have because the hospital had no room for them. She says over 1,200 people from both North America and Europe have contributed finger puppets to the hospital, many of whom are former patients or family members of former patients.
IKW goes through about 1,000 finger puppets every month. They can be found at every entrance, as well as the clinics and labs inside the hospital. Despite how fast the hospital goes through them, there are still roughly 75,000 of them in storage.
Mellor is hopeful that people will continue to create the finger puppets, as they bring an “instant smile” to the faces of patients. She just needs volunteers to check with the hospital before sending them to IKW.
“Feel free to keep knitting, sewing, crochet,” Mellor wrote to the more than 3,000 people who follow the Facebook page. “But hold onto it until it is needed once again. They have only so much space and it’s filling up fast.”