Effort gives foster kids something of their own



Wheeler Clinic and Mott Corporation came together to decorate and assemble 200 “Sweet Cases” for youth in foster care on Monday, Oct. 9 using generous donations from Project Linus and coordinating with the nonprofit organization Together We Rise.

These “Sweet Cases” were meant to be travel bags for the foster care youth in Wheeler Clinic. Duffel bags were donated by Together We Rise, and stuffed with flannel blankets from Project Linus, along with toiletry kits, stuffed animals, books, toys and more.

“A lot of foster children come into care with all of their belongings in a trash bag,” said director of foster care programs, Sharon Pendleton-Ponzani. “The idea is to get these out to all our foster kids at Wheeler Clinic, and give them something of their own to travel with.”

Pendleton-Ponzani described the event as two-fold. The main goal was to prepare the duffel bags, but the clinic also hoped to spread awareness in Plainville’s community and beyond. “We really need families to come forward and be there for these kids,” she said.

There are over 800 youth entering foster care in Connecticut on any given day, and around 50 to 60 in Plainville alone, said Pendleton-Ponzani.

John Sponauer, vice president of communications at Wheeler, said the event was a way to give people hope.

“The goal here is to give the kids a dignified, nice way for them to travel, to feel comfortable, to feel better. They deserve that,” said Sponauer.

Patty Cruickshanks from sales and marketing services at Mott Corporation explained that Mott Health Ambassadors often come to Wheeler Clinic’s aid when they have community outreach programs like this one.

“You hear about a lot of these issues a lot – homelessness, drug abuse, to name a few – but you don’t always see it first-hand. Doing something like this is really eye opening for our workers, and gets them closer to the subject,” said Cruickshanks. “It feels good to actually be even just a small part of creating happiness for someone.”

Mott and Wheeler Clinic often work together on projects year-round, including organizing recovery walks, promotional ventures to share information with the public, donating toys to an annual Christmas party thrown by Wheeler Clinic for foster youth, setting up talks and demonstrations for the public and more.

Pendleton-Ponzani said that knowing the statistics, spreading the word, and volunteering efforts is the first step to helping foster youth, but the most important thing they need is a family and a home.

Wheeler Clinic offers 24/7 support and extensive training to potential foster parents. For information on becoming a foster parent, contact foster care senior recruiters at (860) 793-7277 or email fostercareprograms@wheelerclinic.org. Find information online at wheelerclinic.org/become-a-foster-parent.

Not ready or able to be a foster parent? There are still ways to help out by spreading the word. Wheeler Clinic wants to reach schools, libraries, local businesses, churches, community organizations, medical offices and more. They also offer to do informational presentations at work places or for community groups.

Two-hundred ‘Sweet Cases’ for youth in foster care were assembled on Monday using donations from Project Linus and coordinating with the nonprofit organization Together We Rise. (PHOTO BY SHERIDAN CYR)