Volunteerism. It’s on our to-do list and often one of our New Year’s resolutions. It’s something that we know we need to do, but sometimes we just can’t find the time.
Fortunately, many insurance and financial firms have recognized that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming an essential part of doing business nowadays. Companies that practice CSR often devote a block of time for volunteerism activities in the community that is hosting their events. In fact, attendees often request opportunities for these community service projects, especially those that employ a teambuilding approach.
Fortunately, a variety of turnkey CSR programs abound such as Cheeriodicals, which provides “get well soon” gifts for hospital patients.
“Cheeriodicals escorts a smaller group of the corporate team to the local children’s hospital or Ronald McDonald House to personally distribute the gifts — often room by room throughout the hospital.”
— Rachelle Stone
Cheeriodicals started in 2011 as an online hospital gift company. Consumers visit the Cheeriodicals website to purchase a box filled with magazines and snacks (in lieu of sending flowers or balloons) for a friend or loved one in the hospital.
In early 2012, Cheeriodicals added a second division to the company — a community outreach event. Cheeriodicals and Northwestern Mutual of Alabama developed a program that provided a Cheeriodical (a big green box filled with small toys, magazines and crafts) to all 238 patients at Children’s of Alabama Hospital as a way to remind the patients and their families that the Birmingham community cared about them.
Cheeriodicals assembled the gift boxes, and the Northwestern Mutual management and sales team visited the patients and delivered the gifts in person.
“Soon after the first event, the Cheeriodicals program evolved and became a corporate teambuilding event where Cheeriodicals provides all of the supplies and a coach, and the corporate team assembles hundreds of Cheeriodicals gift boxes,” says Rachelle Stone, DMCP, CLC, market education and business development for Cheeriodicals. “After the teambuilding event, the assembly of the gift boxes, Cheeriodicals escorts a smaller group of the corporate team to the local children’s hospital or Ronald McDonald House to personally distribute the gifts — often room by room throughout the hospital.”
Cheeriodicals finished up 2016 very strong, and have now delivered more than 30,000 big green boxes of cheer to hospitalized children throughout the U.S. and Canada. Future plans include their first event in Hawaii in 2017, and they look forward to many more opportunities to spread Cheer at hospitals nationwide, according to Stone.
Heather Foppe, associate financial representative from Northwestern Mutual in St. Louis, Missouri, helped plan her teambuilding initiative by engaging Cheeriodicals on two separate occasions. In January 2013, the Northwestern Mutual team participated in an event at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and in January 2014, the team visited SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Both events attracted more than 125 people at each teambuilding event.
“During our first Cheeriodicals event the boxes were delivered and a few of us were able to hand out the boxes to the children,” Foppe says. “Therefore only a few were able to experience the true joy of watching the kids open the boxes. For our second event, we did a teambuilding event where we had over 125 people participating in putting the boxes together and then just a few again delivering them to the hospital. As exciting as it is to be a part of the hospital delivery, it was a very special day watching that many people put so many toys in a box in such uniformity and having a blast doing it and personalizing their cards on the box.”
Foppe says the teambuilding event was most enjoyable. “It was great watching every table put their boxes together in different syncs — true teambuilding to be the most efficient — but looking at the glow in a child’s face when you hand him a big green box, there is nothing that can compare,” Foppe says. “Each time was such a wonderful and life-changing experience for our team.
Tressa Ogles, senior vice president, West Tennessee Marketing at Regions Financial Corporation in Memphis also helped plan her company’s event with the Cheeriodicals program. “Our team loved working with Cheeriodicals because they made it easy for them to give back locally and benefit hospitalized children right in Memphis,” Ogles says.
Twenty members of the Regions West Tennessee management team participated in a Cheeriodicals teambuilding workshop two years in a row during the Christmas holidays. The event was held at the bank’s offices in Memphis.
The experience made a lasting impact on the entire team. “We put together 200 Cheeriodical boxes for the patients at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital,” Ogles says. “We split up into teams and had a great time creating each box in an assembly line of sorts. Each person had a specific job with specific items that went into each box. While we packed the boxes, we could not help but think of the children that would receive them. Knowing the boxes we were preparing might bring a smile to their small faces, if even for a few minutes, makes this event worth it.”
Regions Financial Corporation wants to make life better each and every day for their customers and their employees. “We also want to make life better for those in our community,” Ogles says. “Our partnership with Cheeriodicals helps us to do just that with the children and families at LeBonheur Children’s hospital. It’s difficult to imagine what a family goes through when they find out their child is ill or when their child experiences a life-threatening accident. When you deliver the boxes to the children, you can watch the parent’s reaction when their small child opens the green Cheeriodical gift and finds a box full of fun new toys and activities. The parent’s smile is as big as their child’s. You know it brings them joy to see their son or daughter happy in that moment. The smile in the logo on the Cheeriodicals box is a great representation of what the gift inside will bring its recipient.”
Cheeriodicals is providing teambuilding events that not only bond teams, but also allow corporate teams to give back to their communities in a very tangible and personal way. In addition, for the children and families who receive gift boxes through these events, Cheeriodicals and their corporate clients are giving thousands of hospitalized children and their families a respite from the challenges they are facing during their hospital stay.
As Stone explains, Cheeriodicals works with teams from 25–2,000 or more people. Once a team contacts Cheeriodicals about an event, Cheeriodicals works with the client to determine which hospital in the city of the meeting location best suits the size of the program. Cheeriodicals then delivers all the materials, tools and instruction to the client’s meeting location. A Cheeriodicals team of coaches provides a short inspirational presentation, which emphasizes how much the gifts will mean to the patients. Often, a representative from the children’s hospital also will speak to the client team to provide their perspective on how this type of volunteer effort impacts the entire community. The Cheeriodicals team of coaches then oversee the assembly of the gift boxes by the client team, which takes less than two hours.
After all the gift boxes are assembled, they are transported to the local children’s hospital (or Ronald McDonald House or Veterans Hospital). The Cheeriodicals team and a small group of the client’s employees (approximately 10 client employees) travel to the children’s hospital to deliver the gift boxes.
Cheeriodicals coordinates all the details with the children’s hospital in advance so that they are totally prepared when the team arrives. The time spent delivering gift boxes to the patients depends on how much time the client team has available.
“Most teams spend one to two hours delivering gift boxes,” Stone says. “The hospital’s Child Life team will deliver all remaining gift boxes — ensuring every child in the hospital receives a gift box.”
In order to allow all of the client’s employees to experience the emotional distribution of the gifts at the hospital (not just the 10 employees who were able to be at the hospital), Cheeriodicals provides a video creation service. Cheeriodicals will video portions of the teambuilding event as well as portions of the gift distribution at the hospital to create a video that can be shown to the entire client team on the last day of their meeting.
“One of the reasons corporate event planners like partnering with Cheeriodicals is because Cheeriodicals coordinates all the details related to the teambuilding event, including supplies, instructions, coaches, as well the delivery of the gift boxes at the children’s hospital,” Stone says. “We’ve had several meeting planners tell us how refreshing it is to work with a teambuilding company that handles so many of the details so that they can focus on other areas of the meeting.”
Stone relates a feel-good story about cheering up military vets. The regional vice president of Wells Fargo Private Bank wanted to host a corporate teambuilding activity for his 75-person team in Tennessee and Alabama that would directly impact military veterans.
“He liked our exact format for children’s hospitals, but felt the veterans are often forgotten and wanted to have his group’s effort have measurable impact at the Birmingham (VA Medical Center),” Stone says. “He also wanted his team to be able to deliver the Cheeriodicals personally and witness the impact of the gifts up close and personal. “We planned a teambuilding activity where his team assembled 125 Cheeriodicals with contents that perfectly matched the needs of the patients at the Birmingham veterans hospital,” says Stone.
The Cheeriodicals staff interviewed the social worker staff to get their input on the items the veterans would appreciate and utilize. We designed veterans Cheeriodicals that included, among other things, a blanket embroidered with ‘Thank you for your service to our country.’ We scheduled a two-hour delivery event where 10 members of the Wells Fargo team could come into the hospital and deliver all 125 Cheeriodicals, room by room, to every veteran admitted to the hospital that day.”
The team at Northwestern Mutual in Troy, Michigan, also participated in the Cheeriodicals program in the summer of 2014.
“Working with Cheeriodicals allowed our network office to be able to utilize teambuilding to do more than just have fun,” says Jim Schmitz, director of development and training at Northwestern Mutual in Detroit, Michigan, who helped plan their recent Cheeriodicals event and worked as the meeting planner/liaison for the event. “It allowed us to change lives for so many children and families in Detroit and Ann Arbor.”
Approximately 50 people took part in the box-building teambuilding event at their offices. “My team not only had a bunch of fun building the boxes, we got to know each other better through the event,” Schmitz says. “Spending quality time around small tables with your coworkers gives you time to have non-work related conversation and get to know each other better. We also had time to discuss the impact our donations would have on the children we would be delivering the Cheeriodicals to.”
Schmitz also thoroughly enjoyed the visit to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“I was able to join the smaller team and visit the hospital to deliver the boxes to each child,” Schmitz says. “Seeing the joy and surprise on the children’s faces — and parents too — was more fulfilling than I can describe. It was a day that I will not forget for a very long time.”
The Cheeriodicals organization has received a great deal of feedback from children who receive the Cheeriodicals gift boxes. “Most often we hear that the Big Green Box of Cheer creates a wonderful distraction for the child — giving them a reason to smile and have fun,” Stone says. “The parents often tell us that for them, it allows them time to relax while their child is entertained for several hours with the toys in the gift box. Even the nursing staff and Child Life team have told us that a delivery of this magnitude — such that every child receives a surprise gift box — lifts the spirits of the entire hospital.” I&FMM