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Infusion patients receive Valentine’s Day gifts as a surprise from Billings elementary kids



Billings, Montana – On Tuesday, twenty-two second-graders from Arrowhead Elementary School collaborated to make Valentine’s Day cards and gift bags that were given to infusion patients at Billings Clinic.

“A lot of our patients here have chronic illness or cancer … something we hear frequently, from our patients, is how isolating that can be,” said Kelly Bonilla, the infusion center manager at Billings Clinic. “Valentine’s Day can also be very isolating for some people.”

Although one may think that this was an adult-given activity, the youngsters demonstrated amazing independence, according to their instructor Marci Schieno. When the teacher asked the class to think of ways to help individuals during the recent cold spell in Billings, many of them proposed making gifts for cancer patients.

“I see children who are kind and wise. You know, I would say ‘beyond their years,’ but that’s what a child is, extremely kind and much wiser and more generous than we tend to give them credit for,” said Schieno.

Without adult supervision, Lyla Plagmann, one of the students, went door-to-door soliciting money so that her class could give the patients of the pediatric infusion center goodie bags filled with toys and candies.

“I want to make people happy … It feels really good to make people feel happy,” said Plagmann.

The cards varied in length, from brief but inspirational notes such as “You were brought to this world because you matter” to lengthier, full-page letters that Schienno said contained jokes sent by the kids.

The children will leave with completely new perspectives on issues that even adults are unsure of how to handle, according to the patients, who stated that they are not the only ones receiving.

“It’s awesome that they’re getting to learn, very young, that just because somebody, maybe, might be ill, or we’re hooked up to hoses – doesn’t mean we’re scary,” said Becky Hample, who receives chemotherapy infusions every three weeks and said she will for the rest of her life.

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