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Donated toys to go to pediatric patients

Florida-based charity Christ’s Starfish founder Carldon Lahey, center, presents donated toys for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s pediatric unit to Phoebe Child Life Specialist Mandy Lanier, right, Thursday at Phoebe’s main campus. (Mach 28, 2013)

Florida-based charity Christ’s Starfish founder Carldon Lahey, center, presents donated toys for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s pediatric unit to Phoebe Child Life Specialist Mandy Lanier, right, Thursday at Phoebe’s main campus. (Mach 28, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Christ's Starfish Foundation, a charity based in Jacksonville, Fla., made a stop at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Thursday to donate toys for the pediatric unit.

The donations were presented in bins for each age group, and ranged from rattles, mobiles and blankets for babies to stuffed animals, video games and toys for older children.

In all, there were about 500 toys donated for Phoebe's non-cancer pediatric patients, officials at the hospital say. They are to be distributed by Mandy Lanier, Phoebe's child life specialist, for use in her program so that children undergoing difficult procedures and treatments can be given a comfort item.

"No kid wants to be in the hospital," Lanier said. "This is a way to normalize their stay as much as we can.

"This is a way to take out the stress."

The child life specialist program is new to Phoebe. Officials say it incorporates a number of methods to ease a child's -- and the family's -- anxiety, including providing distractions during blood draws, using dolls to demonstrate procedures, arranging visits to family members being cared for in another part of the hospital, providing a tour of Phoebe and assisting in bonding activities for those with siblings in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Carldon Lahey, president and founder of Christ's Starfish, said that the donations to Phoebe primarily consisted of several boxes worth of leftover items that had been donated by businesses and individuals in the Jacksonville area.

"These are things I think can go a long way," he said. "The Lord Jesus Christ called me to do this. I'm just trying to be obedient to the call."

Christ's Starfish is a faith-based organization that started in 2007 in an effort to comfort children who require extended stays in health care facilities as well as provide assistance to their families. They currently are working with child life specialists at hospitals in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.