A stay in the hospital is a daunting prospect for anyone, but that’s especially true for children. Tamar Adler is working to bring a little cheer to what can be a long and frightening experience for kids. In 2020, the Fontbonne University senior began making craft bags to distribute to young patients in pediatric units. It started as a way to give back while the pandemic made volunteering in person impossible, but the initiative has grown into the nonprofit Cheery Charlie.

What are you studying?
I’m studying fashion merchandising; however, I want to go into child life services. My plan is to attend grad school, but before that, I want to get some volunteer experience.

What kind of volunteer work did you participate in before the pandemic?
I did holiday baking for the Salvation Army. I’ve made more than 4,000 cookies and 2,000 cupcakes. I also created holiday crafts to decorate local nursing homes and volunteered as a preschool helper at summer school programs.

Why did you decide to start creating craft bags for children’s hospitals?
It happened because of my younger brother. In June of 2020, he was biking and got hit by a truck. He was rushed to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I really appreciated all the hospital did to care for him, especially the child life specialist. I wanted to volunteer, but I couldn’t because of the pandemic, so I looked for something I could do from home. I came up with the craft bags because they could help distract kids and give them something to enjoy while they’re in the hospital.

How did the project grow into Cheery Charlie?
I didn’t think the project would take off like it has. I just planned on doing it until I could volunteer in person. The pandemic kept dragging on, and now, I’ve donated around 3,000 craft kits. Establishing a nonprofit was completely new to me. I had no clue what I was doing, but with help, I was able to set everything up. Right now, I’m making 300 bags a month. Half go to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and the other half go to Mercy.

Where did the name come from?
My dog’s name is Charlie. He makes me cheerier, and I hope that my craft bags will cheer kids up. Each kit has a sticker that looks like Charlie so they can complete the activity with him by their side.

What do you hope for Cheery Charlie in the future?
I definitely hope it continues to grow. I love giving back, and I hope that I am able to incorporate this work into my future career as a child life specialist.

What has the experience taught you?
I’ve learned that a small project on a limited budget can go a long way. I hope Cheery Charlie inspires people to look for ways they can help the community one small step at a time.

Pictured at top: Tamar Adler with Charlie
Photo courtesy of Cheery Charlie