Brittany Snipes spent previous last Mother’s Day in the hospital with her 4-year-old son, Landon Bliven, who was fighting leukemia and was admitted that weekend. She said she will never forget the kindness of strangers who left a gift basket for Landon to give his mother.
In January of this year, Landon was cleared to go to preschool. Snipes began setting up interviews with local churches and schools to find one that would understand Landon’s illness and limitations while he completed his three-and-one-half years of treatment.
The first one she visited was Oakland Presbyterian Church Preschool. As she walked down the hallway, a photograph on the wall caught her eye. It was a picture of Mother’s Day baskets, just like the one she received.
Snipes considered it fate and enrolled her son there without touring any other locations.
A GIFT FOR MOTHERS
Oakland Presbyterian started this basket program in 2014 when church members Al and Pam Passwater introduced it to Pastor Bob Hines. The couple participated in Dream Factory, which grants wishes to children in the St. Louis area.
That first year, members of the congregation donated baskets; now, the church purchases them online so they are all the same size and style.
The baskets are filled with an assortment of items mothers can use, including a book, “Guideposts” magazine, mug, vase, Lifesavers candy, a piece of jewelry inside a handmade box, makeup bag, teas, hand soap, toothbrush, socks and vanity kit.
“If Mom is going to be stuck in the hospital, we want her to have some things she might need,” volunteer Al Passwater said.
The church in Oakland collects items year-round, with a big push for donations in February. One member of the church makes all the little jewelry boxes.
On Friday, May 4, an assembly line of tables was set up in the sanctuary and about 15 volunteers filled the baskets, wrapped them in cellophane, added a ribbon and bow and heat-sealed them.
The baskets were blessed in the Sunday morning church service, and they will be delivered this week to Florida Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, both in downtown Orlando.
“We’ve probably done closer to 200 each year,” Passwater said. “If anything, the program has grown. In the beginning, we were collecting baskets that people were collecting out of their garage. Now we buy new baskets that are uniform and look a whole lot nicer.
“The target is children who are in the hospital over Mother’s Day with a serious illness,” Passwater said.
“The assumption is these children are probably going to be in the hospitals with their moms,” Hines said. “The idea is we give the baskets to the children to give to their mothers. What’s in the baskets are for women, not children.”
This way, the children still are able to give their mother a present on Mother’s Day.
“We share a love with families to let them know in the moments of crisis that God loves them very much and God’s people love them very much,” Hines said.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.