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SBL Fayette County Hospital

VCHS Senior Donates Bags of Sunshine to SBL FCH

Katie with bags.jpg

November 21, 2023

When tasked with completing an individual service project for the National Honor Society, Vandalia Community High School senior Katie Eckhardt knew she wanted to help others.

“I just wanted to brighten people’s day,” she said. Eckhardt did just that, donating “Bags of Sunshine” to pediatric patients in the Emergency Department, Med/Surg unit and those receiving chemotherapy at SBL Fayette County Hospital, along with SBL FCH’s Long Term Care residents. She also created bags for homeless people receiving care so they had more items to sustain them longer.

To create the bags, Eckhardt hosted a supply donation drive to gather basic items like tooth brushes, tooth paste, socks, hats, gloves, snack foods, puzzle books, note pads and more. Students and staff from three local schools came together to donate items.

Eckhardt’s bags also came with a note that said, “This bag of sunshine was made especially for you to brighten your day. It is loaded with supplies and well wishes donated by local students to help with your healing process. May you find sunshine even on the cloudiest of days.” The bags also included get well cards and artwork from Katie Bowden’s first grade class at Vandalia Elementary School.

Eckhardt said she is thrilled that her Bags of Sunshine made such an impact on people. “I know how much it helped to boost people’s spirits,” she explained. “One person even cried and expressed how happy she was.”

Eckhardt found inspiration for the bags on Instagram and made it her own style. The idea to donate the bags to people receiving treatment at SBL FCH came from her connection to the hospital and her interest in nursing.

Johanna Eckhardt, clinical laboratory scientist (CLS/MT), is Katie’s mother and works in the SBL FCH lab. Katie herself plans to pursue a nursing career, and is already taking a certified nursing assistant class at VCHS. She also plans to attend the University of Illinois Springfield to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

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Katie is involved with many extracurriculars at VCHS and has done community service before. She has been a part of the National Honor Society, along with student council, class officer, Interact, Code Red, Grub Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is on the basketball and softball teams. She volunteers with Second Chance Animal Rescue of Fayette County and has also volunteered for FUMC Kingdom Kids.

It took nearly two months to complete the 76 Bags of Sunshine. She is happy with the result of the project because original goal was to create 10 to 15 bags.

She is very thankful for the outpouring of support, especially to all who donated supplies, Ms. Bowden and her first-grade class for the get-well cards and artwork, the staff at FCH who helped deliver the Bags of Sunshine, and Thrivent Financial for a grant to fund the project and T-shirts that were donated to the first grade volunteers. “I’m glad I made an impact on people in the community,” she said.