Children helping children: Niswonger Children's Hospital has many young benefactors


It’s never too early in life to feel the spirit of giving. At Niswonger Children’s Hospital, gifts are a crucial part of being able to provide the best care to children in the region, and over the last year the hospital has benefited from some wonderful gifts from local young people.

A lemonade stand, a toy donation box, a mini bake sale, a fall dance – these are some of the ways young people raised money or other gifts for Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Large or small, they all made a difference.

Pat Holtsclaw, vice president of Mountain States Foundation, is thrilled by this idea of children helping children. She and Cookie McKinney, the Foundation’s director of Children’s Services, always try to meet personally with people who make donations, so they can say thanks and offer a quick tour of the children’s hospital to show the children what their money is supporting.

“At your age, this is where true giving starts,” Holtsclaw often tells the kids who make donations. “You heart is in it and you understand the joy of giving.”

“It’s a testament to the mission of the Children’s Hospital that children want to give to us,” said Steven Godbold, vice-president and CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “And that’s crucial because 20 to 40 percent of our funding needs to come from philanthropy.”

Here’s a look at some of the student groups and young individuals who went above and beyond the normal call of duty to give to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in 2012:

Civinettes from Science Hill High School

This club of about 25 girls hosted a Civinette Fall Formal dance on Nov. 12 that raised $3,000 for Niswonger. They charged $15 per person or $25 per couple for the event held at The Charles and sold almost 500 tickets.

The girls got the idea for giving to Niswonger by talking to McKinney at a neighborhood lemonade stand she helped run, along with her neighbor, 4-year-old Grant Stout.

Caitlin Aiken’s Build-a-Bears

Caitlin, a 17-year-old homeschool student, is a familiar benefactor for Niswonger. She’s raised money to buy more than 1,000 Build-a-Bears that she’s personalized and given to the hospital, to be handed out to patients. Caitlin started doing this when she was 9 years old and donates another large batch every year or two. This year she gave another 110 Build-a-Bears.

The value of her gifts is estimated at nearly $30,000. She works hard to raise money to buy the bears, including selling homemade banana bread at bake sales. Her mom, Christie Aiken, and grandparents, Bill and Ginnie Aiken, all help with getting the bears ready.

“Every little bit helps,” she said. “It’s just people giving out of the kindness of their hearts.”

As for why she gives to the children at Niswonger, she said, “I put myself into their shoes and thought about what would bring joy to me if I were a kid in here. It just makes me feel good to give to them.”

Grant Stout’s lemonade stand

Grant is McKinney’s neighbor and they have set up their lemonade stand in their neighborhood. To generate interest they circulated flyers throughout the neighborhood.

They actually give away the lemonade but ask for donations. So far, they’ve raised about $1,200 and will present it to the hospital in March during the fundraiser radiothon.

Grant, the son of Clayton and Erica Stout, is a former patient at JCMC’s Children’s Hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit (before Niswonger Children’s Hospital was open).

Green Spring Presbyterian Church

The new youth group from Green Springs Presbyterian Church, located in Abingdon, Va., wanted to do a mission project for other children, so they organized a fundraising campaign and used the money to buy toys for patients at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

Girls Inc. of Johnson City/Washington County

The girls at Girls Inc. have a Young Philanthropy Project and chose to raise funds for Niswonger. They did a mini bake sale, had a beauty salon and held Penny Wars, where they sold crafts. Their efforts raised $465.

Virginia Pillion

Ten-year-old Virginia, from Abingdon, Va., is known for her singing and acting talents but is also quite the philanthropist. The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Todd Pillion, she organized a toy drive at her church and school and, with the help of her family, filled three large containers of toys for Niswonger.

Virginia was the winner of the youth talent contest that was a prelim to the Foundation’s “{One} Singular Sensational Evening,” a night of entertainment that raised funds for Niswonger. Pillion, a singer, performed with Broadway stars on stage at the event, and also just finished her role in Barter Theatre’s “Tarzan: The Musical.”

To download photos of the kids and their projects, go to

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