Several years ago, Lisa Sellers spent Christmas spent two months sitting with her terminally-ill mom in the hospital, and during that time she had a thought: I would like to go back to the same room that she was in the next Christmas and take that person "Christmas in a bag."
“I know what it felt like to sit there all day,” said Sellers, elementary art program coordinator for Fort Smith Public Schools and art instructor at Fairview Elementary School. “Well, one bag quickly became 125 the first year, and it has grown to 600 annually now thanks to help from a lot of people.”
Teaching her students the well-known quote of “The best exercise for the human heart is reaching down to lift someone else up,” (attributed to Tim Russert), Sellers has students make artwork for the Christmas bags and pull together other items to be included.
Sunday will be mark the 11th year Sellers and her students will take the “sights, sounds, smell and taste of Christmas” to patients at Sparks Regional Medical Center and Mercy Fort Smith via Christmas Hospital Cheer Bags.
Christmas morning, 300 gift-filled bags will be delivered to the nurse stations at both Sparks and Mercy. Sparks bags will be delivered beginning at 8 a.m. by students, teachers, former students, parents and friends. Mercy bags will be delivered at 9 a.m.
The bags were assembled in the Fairview Elementary Art room Tuesday by sixth-graders and include original student artwork, a large jingle bell, an orange, a candy cane, lip balm, lotion, a spruce sprig, a snowman bag, an activity book and a Christmas story. Bags for Sparks will include a Chick-fil-A Mini Moo, and bags for Mercy will include a Chick-fil-A coupon for a free ice cream or cookie.
Donations were accepted to help purchase supplies. Students also could purchase 50 cent chances to win several prizes earlier in the semester. Among the donations were six $50 Visa gift cards from Fairview Partner In Education, Ashland Performance; 600 lip balms from A to Z Variety in Fort Smith; large stuffed animals from LifeWay; travel size lotions from Holiday Inn Express, Homewood Suites and Comfort Inn; 300 Mini Moo cows and 300 free ice cream/cookie certificates and bags from Chick-fil-A; and 150 oranges from CVs on Jenny Lind in Fort Smith. The fresh Spruce was donated and shipped from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from Marna Bateman, Sellers’ sister.