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Bags of Fun Bring Smiles to Hospitalized Kids

03/27/2018
10:03 AM
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In the weeks after 6-year-old Gabby Krause succumbed to a brain tumor in 2004, her mother and a close friend fought through tears as they discussed the best way to honor the little girl’s legacy. 

Out of that conversation — and previous encouragement from Gabby herself — Bags of Fun was born. The Centennial nonprofit provides to children with life-threatening illnesses the very thing that made intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment a little easier on Gabby: a bag brimming with toys, books, electronic devices and other items to pass the time.

The Bag was something her family brought along from the beginning of her 19-month battle, and it was after realizing that most pediatric patients at The Children’s Hospital didn’t have a Bag of Fun that Gabby revealed her wish to bring the same joy to the kids around her. It was emblematic of her selfless spirit.

“She couldn’t wrap her head around fact that the other kids didn’t have their own Bags of Fun,” said Dananne Solomon, event and volunteer coordinator for Bags of Fun, and the close friend who consoled Tammy Krause and helped bring the idea of a foundation to fruition. “She was forever sharing. She was a bit of an old soul and always looking for kids who needed something to do.”

And so, in that conversation shortly after Gabby’s passing, the seeds for the Gabby Krause Foundation were planted, and work began in earnest.

Fourteen years and 8,300 Bags of Fun later, the campaign continues to build momentum in and outside of Colorado. The seven people who run the Centennial-based foundation, including Tammy Krause, have provided start-up help to chapters in other states, including one in Kansas City, and a group in Indianapolis that operates under the foundation’s umbrella as The Tatum Parker Project.

The Bags are tailored to age and gender, but the two constant items are an electronic device and noise putty that makes sounds that bring laughter to children, said Solomon, a resident of Arapahoe County. The electronics used to be the Nintendo DS or LeapFrog learning tablets; these days it’s a Kindle or similar device. In all, there are usually between 14-18 items in each bag – a journal, a funny movie, a dartboard, anything to entertain and help pass the time.

“It’s mostly about the power of play, what it’s able to do for these kids who are sitting in a hospital setting worrying about what’s going on, when the next needle poke or test is coming,” said Solomon, who adds there is strong evidence to suggest the activities reduce stress on pediatric patients and their parents.

A Bag of Fun brought to Maelle Hicks on her first day of treatment at The Children’s Hospital in July 2014 had such an uplifting impact that she and her family continue to volunteer and raise money for the foundation, long after the successful completion of treatment to shrink a benign tumor that was putting pressure on the girl’s optic nerve. Her mother, Kristen Debo, says the delivery of a Bag of Fun was a complete surprise to everyone, and Maelle’s reaction is burned into her memory. 

“The look on her face is just something you’ll never forget,” said Debo, a resident of Greeley. “Having this surprise come in, it was such an amazing feeling that I wanted to help give that back to other families.”

Maelle ultimately went through 10 rounds of chemotherapy. On her 5th birthday in April 2015, the oncologist said Maelle was done with treatment. Now she acts as an ambassador of sorts, testifying about the effect the Bag of Fun had on her during her treatment.

The scope of the Gabby Krause Foundation has broadened since the nonprofit’s inception. Bags were first delivered to cancer patients, but the objective quickly became inclusive of all children affected by a life-threatening condition, including blood disorders, heart complications and severe burns. More medical centers got involved and began requesting the nonprofit’s services, too.

“It’s cool to see how it’s taken off,” Solomon says. “It’s assurance to us that we’re doing something good.”

The expanding nature of the mission meant that more funds were needed, and Bags of Fun is grateful for the continued support of donors, partners and Cherry Creek High School, which used its annual Power Week in March to collect funds for the growing organization. Those efforts are coupled with three annual fundraisers, including a golf tournament at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker and the foundation’s signature event, Bring Out the Bags.

For more information about how to donate or volunteer for Bags of Fun, 7200 S. Alton Way, B-130, call 720-476-3022 or send an e-mail to Tammyk@bagsoffun.org. To read inspiring stories about the kids and what the foundation means to them, go to www.bagsoffun.org.

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13133 East Arapahoe Road
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