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Making a Local Difference with Bags of Hope 2023

Members of the Help Hope Live staff and board with staff at Magee Rehabilitation in the Magee Rehabilitation facility with windows showing a city street and red brick buildings and a decorated holiday tree with silver ornaments. The individuals pictured are a diverse mix of ages and genders with most standing and two individuals seated in their wheelchairs. Many wear red, green, or other festive holiday touches.

Each year, the Help Hope Live team spreads hope in our own small way by packaging and delivering Bags of Hope to local patients.

In 2023, our team put together nearly 100 Bags of Hope and helped personally deliver them to individuals and families facing hospital stays during the holiday season.

A photo of the Help Hope Live team together at the offices for the 2023 Bags of Hope packing. They are next to a cart of brightly colored full holiday gift bags and are holding additional bags in the photo. The 10 staff members are diverse in skin color and age with one male and nine females, plus 2 additional staff members on a laptop one of the in-person staff is holding up for the photo. Many of them are dressed in silly holiday sweaters or attire.

The Inspiration

Our Executive Director Kelly L Green’s Bags of Hope journey began long before our team came together.

In 2011, Kelly’s mother, Ileen, experienced a holiday season stuck in isolation. A care package surprised Ileen and brightened her holiday season—and Kelly was moved by the realization that such a small gesture could make a big impact during a patient’s hospital stay.

In 2012, after Ileen passed away, Kelly opted to pay it forward. She assembled her own care package in memory of her mom with hand-selected items to spread holiday cheer.

Kelly kicked off a tradition now in its eleventh year for her and her family – and its sixth year for our Help Hope Live team.

The impact of this year’s Bags of Hope initiative hit home as Kelly and our team witnessed smiles, surprise, and gratitude from 2023 recipients:

“This brings me so much comfort…I miss my mom so deeply, and this legacy makes a world of difference in my heart.”

Two photos of individual Bags of Hope 2023 items. The first is a teal butterfly. The second is the word HOPE in a wooden cutout with black-and-white flannel design and a sprig of pine with pinecones and berries and a black and white check bow.

Bags of Hope 2023

Our Bags of Hope process starts with our team and supporters donating items to lift patient spirits. This year, the Do Gooders organization of Philadelphia fulfilled a grant to help cover $1,000 in Bags of Hope costs. We are so grateful for their help!

Three photos show festive Bags of Hope, holiday gift bags with handles, during the 2023 Help Hope Live Bags of Hope packing event at the office headquarters.

Our local team members donate their time to assemble Bags of Hope at our offices. It’s a rare opportunity for our local staff to gather in-person to support a special annual cause.

Two photos from the 2023 Bags of Hope packing event at the Help Hope Live offices. The first is Brooke, Terri, and Sonny standing in the conference room. Brooke has light skin, blonde hair pulled back, black glasses, and a festive red tartan wrap over a black turtleneck. Terri has light skin and short dark hair and wears a lanyard over a pine-green long-sleeved shirt and jeans. Sonny has light skin, tortoiseshell glasses, and blonde hair past her shoulders with an ugly sweater-style sweater that reads EAGLES and includes the football team's logo. In the second photo, Kelly L Green has light skin, dark hair pulled back, and a bright teal coat with psychadelic-print rain boots as she holds festive Bags of Hope in both hands. She is in the Help Hope Live lobby with a pillar visible that has photos of Help Hope Live clients of various ages and ethnicities.

Next, it’s time to get the pros involved: close connections with local organizations and industry professionals allow us to usher our Bags of Hope safely into the hands of local patients and families.

This year, we allied once again with Ron Siggs at Magee Rehabilitation and heart failure/transplant social worker Deb Gordon, MSW, LSCW, at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

One cool inclusion in our Bags of Hope at Magee: The Smarter Hook, a product perfect for adding to the back of a wheelchair or walker to help keep items close at hand.

The back of the packaging for a The Smarter Hook. It is a black ring with the Help Hope Live logo and tagline Trusted Medical Fundraising over it. It reads The Smarter Hook is an innovative product designed to hang items where you need them most. Whether it's holding a shopping bag from the handle of a grocery cart, accessories in the closet, or conveniently placed on a chair or walker to keep your items close. This hook holds up to 14 pounds. Instructions: Use the heel of your hand and press. For larger items, flip to the two outer hooks and simply roll and press.

Deb gave us a great shout-out after our delivery day:

“Thanks to Help Hope Live for making this a special holiday season for those awaiting a transplant or post-transplant. This will be delivered to heart, liver, lung, and kidney transplant families.”

Sonny Mullen is with Deb Gordon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. On a city sidewalk, they flank a rolling cart full of brightly colored handled holiday gift bags. Deb has light skin, short gray hair, and glasses. Sonny has light skin, blonde hair past her shoulders, and a Santa hat. They wear warm winter casual clothes.

Our final stop was MossRehab, where Julie Hensler-Cullen (Director, Education and Quality) coordinated distribution across the largest physical medicine and rehabilitation community in Philadelphia.

Three photos from the Bags of Hope 2023 delivery at MossRehab. The first is a woman waving as she sits in her black wheelchair with a green festive holiday bag on her lap. She has light skin, white hair, and black glasses. She is in a hospital or rehab room with a visible hospital bed. The second photo is a woman with dark skin, a mask, and a hair cap handing a festive green bag to a seated light skinned man wearing a puffy jacket and plaid pajama pants. He is seated next to a hospital bed in a hospital or rehab room. The third is someone with brown skin, black glasses, a face mask, and a navy t-shirt handing a red festive holiday bag to a seated individual with brown skin, short gray hair, and a red sweater.

Hope Catches On

“Help Hope Live does phenomenal work providing hope for all. We are so grateful to be a part of this new annual tradition of giving!”

Our friends at Prelude Solutions were inspired to not only participate in Bags of Hope but start their own team tradition.

The Prelude Team packed 50 Bags of Hope on a Zoom call in just 30 minutes—and they want to extend the tradition beyond the holiday season!

They felt the process of packing their own Bags of Hope was easy, with one hitch:

They collected so many items to stuff their Bags of Hope that they had to purchase bigger bags to hold them all.

Small Gesture – Big Impact

Our catastrophic illness client Kaija Hite is not local to our area, but a piece of her story still powerfully underlines the power of local gestures like Bags of Hope.

While Kajia is local to North Carolina, she’s been staying away from home in a Los Angeles hospital to help diagnose and treat her complicated FND, FMD, and CRPS diagnoses.

As Kaija’s mom observed in an Update on her Campaign Page, “Hospital stays during the holiday season can be quite depressing. Christmas cheer does not always reach the rooms of the patients: not all patients can enjoy the beauty of a decorated hospital lobby.”

However, small acts of hope can change everything. As mom shared:

“Acts of simple kindness help Christmas magic happen. One of the sweetest doctors on Kaija’s team brought decorations for her room this morning.”

The gesture impacted not just Kaija and her family but so many others:

“Let me tell you, a simple string of lights changes the whole atmosphere and lifts the spirit, not only for us but for everyone who enters the room.”

Kindness begets kindness. In Kaija’s case, her family was able to turn that holiday cheer into additional hope and festivity, sharing 30 holiday goodie bags of their own with nurses, doctors, and room cleaners.

Thank You!

These gestures truly make a difference, and we get the opportunity to gratefully participate in them together as we think globally and act locally.

Your support allows us to strengthen and expand our nonprofit mission—and its impact— year after year.

It’s a joy and privilege to be able to continue to do the work we do – whether we’re providing trusted medical fundraising on a national scale or gestures of hope right here in our backyard.

Thank you for fueling another year of hope and impact!

Four Help Hope Live staff members are pictured on the rooftop of Magee Rehabilitation with a portion of the Philadelphia city skyline behind them in winter. Sonny has light skin, blonde hair, and a Santa hat. Vanessa has dark skin, a big red bow, and a camel coat. Shannon has light skin, highlighted shoulder length brown hair, and a cream turtleneck with a vest. Kelly has light skin, dark hair pulled back, a Help Hope Live black hoodie and jeans, a rainbow scarf, and a green reindeer antler headband. Written by Emily Progin