By Merrick Eagleton
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater Medical Center turned a festive holiday competition into a program to help families in need throughout Stillwater and the surrounding community.
Seventeen years ago, the hospital departments competed in a door decorating contest. Each department was given $25 to dress up its doors in holiday decorations and the winner was rewarded with a pizza party. Barbara Charles was a member of the interaction committee that decided to use the money for a better cause.
“We did that for a couple years and then we thought, ‘You know, there's got to be a better use for this money than spending it on decorating all the doors in the hospital,’” Charles said.
Charles suggested donating the money and is now the coordinator of the Adopt-A-Family program for the hospital. This year, 43 families are being adopted, and each child will receive a bicycle donated by the community.
P&K Equipment donated 25 bikes to the cause this year. Last year was their first year to participate, and they gave 39 bikes. Alan Nietenhoefer, store manager of P&K Equipment, got his company involved after his wife encouraged him to participate.
P&K Equipment tailgates for each Oklahoma State home football game. They have a jar at their tailgates and encourage fans to donate.
“All the money we raise from that goes straight to this,” Nietenhoefer said. “Whatever's left we kick in from our employees and then the store also kicks in.”
The bikes donated last year were only enough for the children that had requested a bike. This year there will be enough bikes to give to all the children. Three bikes were donated by the Stillwater Fire Department and other members of the community also have given individual bikes.
The families were selected through a confidential process between Charles and school counselors. Often families that participate in the backpack program qualify to be adopted. Charles begins the process in September to find out how many families need to be adopted and how many hospital departments will be participating.