COVIDWhen school reopened in September, it was no surprise that the number of children getting tested for COVID-19 would increase. Although some children opted for online learning, about 70 percent of students returned for in-class learning. Today, education facilities including schools and daycares, are the third leading setting for COVID-19 outbreaks. The unsettling reality is that many families can not avoid sending their kids back to school and daycare.

Brenda Parrott, an MSW at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, has worked in healthcare for over 20 years. She works in the COVID-19 assessment centre but is in self-isolation for 14 days due to a possible case in the hospital. Her daily tasks consist of greeting patients, checking for symptoms, connecting patients to nurses or doctors, helping with vitals, and overall being a security blanket for scared and anxious citizens entering the hospital during the second wave of the pandemic.

“I assisted physicians in conducting COVID-19 testing, its an uncomfortable procedure, but I do my best to hold them still and keep them calm. Imagine healthcare workers decked out in scary PPE. Our masks prevent us from communicating clearly and blocks our faces. They can’t see our smile or hear our comforting words. Kids are already scared when they enter the hospital – COVID has doubled their fears. The very first child I had to swab was so upset. I looked all over the hospital for a popsicle to give her. The next day I had three children scheduled for testing, so I prepared three popsicles. One of them told me that we were scary monsters and I hated that. On my way home, I went to the dollar store and spent 65 dollars on small knick-knacks and bags that looked like a virus. This is when the Brave Bags were born! I collected little treasures I could give the kids if they were brave during the testing.”

The Brave Bags have gone to a bag, to a box, and now to a full closet. Brenda took the bag to Facebook to see if anyone wanted to donate. She was overwhelmed with how many people wanted to help – so many bags were dropped off at her home. As the news about the Brave Bag spread through the community and the hospital, several donations were made, and the program snowballed into what it is today. They have received everything from colouring books, art supplies, toys, and gift cards. McDonald’s and Tim Hortons have donated over 200 gift cards to support the initiative.COVID

“The kids loved it. They stopped crying right away once they heard about the Brave Bag. The braver they were, the more treasures they would receive. We were the very first assessment centre to do this. I put out the challenge for other assessment centres, and two more centres in Kitchener are participating. Today, I challenge other assessment centres to join us and be apart of this uplifting movement. We need more unicorns to help spread the magic of kindness. Think like a child! A little goes a long way. The Brave Bags have made a world of a difference and transformed this uncomfortable test into something fun.”

Join Brenda and bring Brave Bags to your COVID-19 Assessment Centre today!