'Bags of Smiles' delivers toys and games to hospitalized kids

- Being in the hospital can be very isolating, especially for a child. Knowing this, a local family came up with a plan eight years ago to create some fun for hospital stays. 

What started as a small gesture has grown into a big operation to give back.

It's a Thursday in the pediatric unit at Hennepin County Medical Center and there is a special visitor. 

Seth Kulics is part of crew called "Bags of Smiles" that delivers toys and games to kids in the hospital. 

Kids like Javaya who is 2 and a half years old or siblings who spend a lot of time being supportive at the bedside both benefit from it.

“If that bag can help them smile for a bit and let them forget what's going on at that moment,” Kristen Burma said.

Bags of Smiles is the work of Aric and Kristen Burma and a result of the life-changing experience they had with their own son who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 1.

“It’s a constant reminder of how life is precious,” Burma said. “That was our first experience ever knowing a child with cancer. I was oblivious to it.”

Zac is now a healthy, cancer-free, 9-year-old boy. He knows why it's important to give back, too.

The bags have toys, cards and journals to help kids pass the time.

Zac says Hot Wheels are his favorite toys to give for boys and stuffed animals for girls.

The non-profit delivers to 14 hospitals and two hospice programs year-round.

“In 2011, when we started, we held our first fundraiser with the intent of making 100 baskets at that time we were giving back to children's oncology,” Aric Burma said.

10,000 bags later, they are giving back to kids in any part of the hospital, from the ER to the burn unit. 

Also, it's family affair. Seth is Kristen’s brother and they also rely on many, many friends and donors to make all this happen.

Their experience with Zac, while terrifying at the time, has been a blessing in disguise.

“I think the relationships we made, the people we met doing Bags of Smiles, are bigger to me than anything else we've gone through. The messages you get from the moms and dads, ‘You made my kids smile today.’ That means a lot.”

So often there are children who can't even leave their hospital room to venture out, so the Burma’s have done a small, but very meaningful thing to help.

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