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Valley Children’s patient Maddlyn begins using her new crayons and a coloring book that she received from Dr. Tamrya Pierce’s MCJ 106 students at Valley Children’s hospital, on Nov. 17, 2017. (Alejandro Soto/ The Collegian)

University students gift books, crayons to young hospital patients

The holiday spirit of joy and giving came early to the young patients at Valley Children’s Hospital.

It was all thanks to an idea more than a decade in the making from a Fresno State professor.

“We wanted to do something special for the kids to get their minds off of what they’re going through,” said Dr. Tamyra Pierce, professor in the media, communications and journalism department.

A donation of 150 student-produced coloring books and 300 boxes of crayons made its way to the hospital last Friday. The books were a part of the semester-long project for Pierce’s publication design class.

The class got funding from Friends for Civic Engagement through the Jan and Bud Richter Center in order to allow the coloring books to be printed and bound. A crayon drive was hosted in October to pair the crayons with the books.

Half of the books were left in the playroom of the hospital, while the other half were taken to the Ronald McDonald House down the road.

Cassie Richter, one of Pierce’s students, said her team decided to design winter-themed books. They created their own character snowman: McBlizzard.

Richter said she was surprised at how much time the design process took. She said she even spent time outside of class to complete her pages.

“I’m not an artist,” she said. “So seeing it come from nothing and put into this actual coloring book that kids are going to be able to use is really cool.”

In addition to her three color pages, Richter also designed the cover page.

The book and crayon donations were personal for Richter, who spent six weeks at Valley Children’s when she was a child. She said she knows the “boring” day-to-day routine the patients go through.

“Same people come in, same nurses, same doctors come in. They do their thing, [and] they leave,” Richter remembered from her own experience. “So having somebody new come in, having something new to do that’s out of the ordinary is always uplifting and exciting.”

After Pierce, Richter and five other students set the books up in the playroom, a small group of children and their parents walked in to the surprise.

Miranda Rodriguez sat with her daughter, Maddlynn, who has been at Valley Children’s since the beginning of the year. Rodriguez said seeing the students bring in activities for the kids made her feel thankful.

“I think it’s amazing. There are so many kids here, and I’m glad my daughter gets to come home with me,” she said. “There’s other kids here that have to stay, but it’s an amazing hospital. It makes the kids happy. It’s something to distract them.”

The donation was the second that Rodriguez had seen that day. Earlier, someone donated blankets to the hospital.

She said the gifts inspired her to bring something for the kids on her next visit. After all, she said, it’s the hospitality that makes the time at Valley Children’s less frightening.

“These people help children,” Rodriguez said. “They know what’s going on. They try to make everything so calm and not make it uncomfortable for the parents or the children.”