Playtime Extravaganza goes on at Children’s of Alabama thanks to volunteers

Playtime Extravaganza goes on at Children’s of Alabama thanks to volunteers
Alicia Ford is among many Southern Company Services and Alabama Power employees who make the annual Playtime Extravaganza project possible at Children's Hospital. About 150 Children's patients will enjoy 'Christmas come early' with gift bags filled will toys provided through donations by SCS and APC employees in Birmingham. SCS employees will deliver boxes of toys next week. (Phil Free / Alabama NewsCenter)

More than 150 sick kids at Children’s Hospital will enjoy a mini version of Christmas this week, thanks to employees at Southern Company Services (SCS) and Alabama Power.

Several SCS employees recently spent a couple of hours organizing boxes of toys for the 13th-annual Playtime Extravaganza for Children’s Hospital patients. On Friday afternoon Nov. 5, seven volunteers met at Patrick Snell’s home in Hoover, Alabama, to package small toys into about 150 kid-sized packages.

Children’s Hospital Playtime Extravaganza goes on thanks to Alabama Power and Southern Company Services volunteers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Volunteers wore protective masks and gloves to make sure the gifts were packaged in a safe environment, in keeping with rules set by Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve done our Playtime Extravaganza project for 13 years, partnering with Children’s Hospital,” said Patrick Snell, this year’s Playtime project coordinator and an applications analyst for Financial Services Information Technology (IT) at SCS in Birmingham. “We usually do a teddy bear fair, a LEGO movie event, a fantastic photos fun fair and other activities during one week in August. It’s really been a year of uncertainty. It definitely took a little creativity to make this happen during the pandemic.”

Indeed, COVID-19 turned the project on its ear. The group couldn’t host the fun-time events on-site at the hospital because of concerns about coronavirus transmission.

“Playtime Extravaganza usually gives the patients a chance to come down, hang out, have a good time and just have a little escape from their daily treatments,” he said. “Instead, we are trying to put Playtime Extravaganza in a box. We’ll take all of the gifts to Children’s Hospital.”

With employees working from home this fall, the Technology organization couldn’t hold its usual fundraisers. Instead, they sent an email to Technology Organization and Energy Management System employees letting them know they could sponsor a teddy bear for $20 and a Playtime Extravaganza kit for $50.

Technology Organization employees ordered the toys and prize-pack items from Amazon and Oriental Trading. The project benefits youngsters in the Child Life program at Children’s Hospital.

“Instead of spending a week with the kids, we’re packaging toys that represent each event into the boxes,” Snell said. “About 31 employees gave $2,205. The Magic City Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization gave $500 to the project.”

Snell’s garage and driveway were converted to work areas for assembling gift bags and boxes. SCS volunteers included Alicia Ford, Leigh Hampton Gorham, Carol Grigsby, Tracy Henderson, Serina Johnson, Melissa Ledbetter and Snell.

Grigsby and Ledbetter kept a safe distance of 6 feet in the garage while packaging hundreds of small toys. Other employees worked at tables outdoors where temperatures were comfortably warm for a fall day.

Ledbetter, who has helped with the project for four years and Grigsby, who has assisted for 10 years, agreed the work is “all about the kids.”

“Seeing how much fun they have is so neat,” said Ledbetter, an SCS employees for 15 years. “It lifts their spirits so much.”

Snell said SCS and APC employees enjoyed the opportunity to help children during the holiday season.

“We spent a couple of hours getting everything done,” Snell said. “It’s been cool to see the response from so many people. We are so appreciative of all our employees and Magic City APSO for making this happen.”

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