A picture of people creating holiday cards

People create cards during the Hearts for the Holiday's event, held at Turlington Plaza and hall on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. The event was hosted by Friends for Life of America. 

Classic holiday tunes played over the bustle of midday traffic as students decorated holiday cards outside Turlington Hall.

A UF student organization dedicated to serving children with cancer and their families, Friends For Life of America, hosted a community service event called “Hearts for the Holidays” on Tuesday afternoon. Participants spread out across the front of Turlington Hall and decorated cards to give to patients in children’s hospitals. 

About 20 people participated in the card making activity and made over 50 cards, said Madison Burns, the organization’s president and a 20-year-old UF biology junior.

Burns made sure to continue the annual event in the best, safest way possible. The event started in 2009 and is normally held at the end of the organization’s meetings, but the club is holding its meetings virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

To ensure a safe environment, masks were mandatory, participants socially distanced and markers and scissors were wiped down after every use. 

Some hospitals are not accepting cards because of the pandemic, but the club is hoping to send cards to Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa and UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Burns said.  

The goal for this event is to bring a sense of normalcy to the children in hospitals because COVID-19 has limited visitation, Burns said. 

“We wanted to make sure that we could keep doing whatever we could, in whatever capacity, to support them and to just make things a little more festive,” Burns said. 

Burns volunteers at Shands and has been a member of FFL since her freshman year. Although a card may not seem like much, Burns feels they can make a great impact on a child’s day. 

“It really is the little things, especially with little kids,” Burns said. 

With fewer volunteers and visitors allowed into hospitals, there is less moral support for patients. For example, the family events put on by St. Jude’s have all been canceled.  

Participants were encouraged to spread around Turlington Hall and decorate their cards in winter themes, avoiding references to specific holidays to be as inclusive as possible. 

Hannah Prudencio, a 19-year-old UF animal sciences sophomore, came to the event to alleviate stress and left with a warm spirit. Prudencio is not a part of Friends for Life, but is considering joining now, she said. 

During high school, Prudencio spent a lot of time at the hospital where her mom worked. Proficient in origami, Prudencio would make pieces for patients, she said. Over time, she formed relationships with some of the patients in the hospital. 

The “Hearts for the Holidays” event reminded her of the way it felt to give those gifts. 

“It's always nice to receive a card and know that someone is thinking about you, know that someone is hoping the best for you,” Prudencio said.

Contact Rachel at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @racheljslay.