Grant from The Toy Foundation helps comfort kids in HCMC’s Emergency Department


Since last year, children being seen at HCMC’s Emergency Department in the heart of downtown Minneapolis have been enjoying new toys thanks to a grant from The Toy Foundation, a charitable organization that works with the toy industry to support play programs for children. HCMC was chosen as one of the recipients of a grants totaling more than $215,000 that were distributed to children’s hospitals for innovative play projects designed to help hospitalized children heal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health and well-being of millions of children resulting in a rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for mental, emotional, and behavioral health conditions. To help children’s hospitals, especially those serving disadvantaged communities, address this crisis through the therapeutic power of play, The Toy Foundation and Children’s Hospital Association partnered to create “Grants for Play Projects.”

“It’s unbelievable how distraction elements can make a difference in the lives of children coming to the emergency department for care,” explains Child Life Program Coordinator Alyson Weiss.  “We are so grateful for this generous gift that just keeps on giving.”

Hennepin Healthcare is a nationally recognized system of care that includes HCMC, a Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota, where 5,000 to 8,000 children are cared for every year. This donation also impacts the additional children of adult patients or siblings of pediatric patients who find themselves in HCMC’s waiting rooms or exam rooms.

The toys purchased with the $25,00 grant from The Toy Foundation helped to make the environment in the pediatric area of the emergency department more friendly and welcoming. Wall game units, bubble tubes, and toys and elements to keep a toy cart sorted by age stocked were some of the items purchased with the grant.

“Whether kids are coming in with a broken arm or are feeling crummy, these toys help them think about something else while they are being assessed and treated,” said Weiss. “Over the past year, we’ve also seen more kids having mental health issues along with whatever else they are struggling with, so these toys can create conversation pieces and make a connection and a difference for patients, providers, and families.”

HCMC is a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and public teaching hospital located in downtown Minneapolis offering a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient pediatric care.

Open House Celebrates Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic

From pilot project to essential community connection, Hennepin Healthcare’s Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic hit the ground running to address a need when immunization rates began to plummet during the pandemic. On Wednesday, April 27 – just in time for National Infant Immunization Week – Hennepin Healthcare will celebrate this successful program and the ongoing heroic measures taken to ensure the health of children and families in the community.

What:              Hennepin Healthcare’s Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic’s Open House
Where:            NE Corner of 8th St. & Chicago Ave., Mpls. on HCMC’s campus
When:             Wednesday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pediatrician Dr. Dawn Martin still recalls when early in the pandemic the CDC and MDH published data showing a precipitous decrease in the number of vaccinations children were receiving. “I knew we had to bring healthcare to the community and meet our patients where they are,” she said. “Our communities, who already experience barriers to healthcare, transportation, language, and childcare were even more impacted by the pandemic. The pandemic both exposed and exacerbated these barriers.”

“The pandemic changed much of the way society functions,” explains Sheyanga Beecher, APRN, CNP, Pediatrics at Hennepin Healthcare. “We learned that we could have nearly everything – groceries, over-the-counter medicines, even toilet paper delivered to our doorstep. So why not healthcare?”

Beecher and Dr. Martin realize that the pandemic was very difficult for many families, but that it also created an opportunity for our health system to face the reality that there are some families still beyond the grasp of our safety net.

“I’ve learned a lot about the barriers that families face in initiating and then maintaining their healthcare,” said Beecher. “This understanding has helped me not only in my one-on-one interactions with patients, but also helped me reflect on ways that our program can affect meaningful change to patients and communities.”

The goal of the Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic has never been to duplicate services that already exist, but to supplement or enhance services. There’s been an overwhelming response to this outreach that’s developed into successful partnerships with families, other Health and Human Services departments and staff, and community stakeholders (schools, Head Start Centers, BIPOC organizations). The Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic has expanded care from mobile runs to pop-up clinics, screening and referrals and other outreach activities.

“The community, our patients, partner organizations and public health have been grateful and enthusiastically supportive of this work,” said Dr. Martin. “They have helped us adapt, better understand and meet the needs of our communities, and this project has been successful because families, community organizations and people throughout Hennepin Healthcare worked together!”

Read more about the Pediatric Mobile Health Clinic at Hennepin Healthcare’s