(ARA) - Each year in the United States, millions of American children are hospitalized and must face the challenges of overcoming illness while staying in unfamiliar hospital environments. The physical and emotional toll can be extensive for children whose illnesses require a long hospitalization, as well as for their families whose only wish is for their child to be healthy. You can bring comfort to these families during difficult times. Here are some ideas for how you can make a difference: * Do you know how to quilt or have an interest in making sewing a new hobby? Downy fabric softener has partnered with Quilts for Kids, Inc. for the Downy Touch of Comfort program, which delivers handmade quilts to hospitalized children across the country. Not only does the program provide happiness and comfort to these children who can't bring their own security items along for their stay, it also provides support for these families, as every quilt goes a long way toward helping children maintain a positive attitude while dealing with their hospitalization. Visit the Downy website at <a href="http://www.downy.com/en-US/helping-kids.jspx">www.downy.com/helpingkids</a> to get involved in the program and witness first-hand the impact of bringing a smile to a sick child's face. You can learn how to create a quilt and send it to Quilts for Kids for distribution to a child in need. You can also find out how to get involved with Quilts for Kids through a direct donation or involvement in your local chapter. * If you're crafty and enjoy activities such as scrapbooking, organizing a card drive could be a great way to get involved. Whether it's around a specific holiday, or simply to say "get well soon," creating cards to be distributed to children and their families will brighten their day. First, check with your local hospital about their policy to make sure they can accept and are able to pass out the cards. Then, plan out a day and gather all your friends to create cards that can be given to each sick child. Remember to use bright colors, fun shapes and even characters that the kids might recognize from TV or the movies. * If you want to make a difference face-to-face, consider volunteering at your local hospital. Most hospitals offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, from simply playing with the kids to assisting the nurses. By volunteering, you'll be helping out parents of these children because a friendly adult face can bring comfort even when the parents can't be there. Talk with the volunteer coordinator and learn about opportunities to visit kids in their rooms, read to them, do crafts in common areas and play games. Children are bound to feel anxious and fearful when they enter the unfamiliar atmosphere of a hospital. Remember, your spirit of giving can truly make a difference for them and their parents, offering reassurance and helping them keep their spirits up as they go through a difficult stay.
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