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Monday, April 12, 2021

Friends for Life group makes holiday cards for kids

With the holiday season approaching, the UF chapter of Friends for Life of America hopes to spread joy to children in hospitals.

Through its annual program, "Hearts for the Holidays," Friends for Life will make inspirational cards to send to pediatric cancer patients across the country, said Ashley Ferrara, a volunteer and promoter of the program.

This week, anyone interested in creating a card can visit tables set up on Turlington Plaza from Monday to Friday and on the Reitz Union Colonnade from Monday to Thursday, said Ferrara, a UF biology junior.

The tables will be operating from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m, she said.

"It's wonderful to bring some holiday joy into the lives of these children," Ferrara said. "I want them to know that they are in our thoughts, especially during this season."

Hearts for the Holidays began Nov. 19, and 1,000 cards have already been made, she said.

The program has been on campus for five years, and although the purpose and project have not changed, it has become more successful with each passing year, Ferrara said.

Last year, more than 7,200 cards were made, and the goal for the number of cards increases each year, said Robin Manzella, Hearts for the Holidays' director.

In order to help meet this year's goal, Friends for Life wanted to get the Gainesville community involved and raise awareness about the program, said Manzella, a senior health education and behavior major. For the first time, the group set up tables at Publix grocery stores, she said.

All of the supplies for making a card are provided at the tables, including stickers, stamps and markers, Manzella said.

Friends for Life asks that each card made be a generic holiday card with no specific holiday reference so it can go to any child, she said.

Those who make a card also need to avoid mentioning being in the hospital or telling the child to get well or feel better, Manzella said.

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After the program is over, the cards are sent to each hospital that requests them. Hospitals in each of the 50 states have requested cards, she said.

Manzella said Friends for Life loves it when groups, including fraternities and sororities, get involved with the project.

Special organization kits with all of the necessary supplies are made for groups on campus that want to help, she said.

"These children are in the hospital, and they are always thinking about their illness," Manzella said. "It takes their mind off of what they are going through for just a second."

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