Wittenberg student goes shopping for toys to comfort kids at hospital


A 19-year-old Wittenberg student gave back to a Columbus hospital that helped her through a difficult time in her life.

Leah Bennett, 19, spent Friday shopping for hundreds of dollars of toys at Big Lots in Springfield as a patient champion for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. She was one of seven chosen from around the U.S. to take part in a shopping spree to provide toys and other items to comfort children currently receiving treatment at the hospital.

READ MORE: Urbana firm to add 20-plus jobs as part of $2.7M expansion

“They’ve been there for me for a long, long time,” Bennett said of Nationwide. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them so I’m here trying to give back.”

Bennett was treated at the hospital as a teenager after facing mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. But she said the treatment she received from Nationwide’s Behavioral Health Services helped her cope and she is now enrolled at Wittenberg on a music scholarship.

MORE: Springfield Guard unit providing communications after hurricanes

While she was a teenager when she received treatment, she said spending time in a hospital can be frightening. The toys will give children a brief respite and some comfort, she said.

“It’s important for kids to know we’re out there thinking about them,” Bennett said.

The hospital in Columbus serves more than 600 patients daily, and Bennett was picked as a patient champion both because of her story and her interest in helping other children in a similar situation, said Niki Shafer, senior vice president of outreach at Nationwide hospital in Columbus.

DETAILS: FEMA awards grant to Springfield firefighters

“Leah has a history with our behavioral health program and Big Lots recently made a $50 million gift to expand our behavioral health program and it’s just a natural fit for them both,” Shafer said.

Big Lots, based in Columbus, donated the toys Bennett picked out Friday and is now in its third year raising money to support the hospital, said David Campisi, CEO of Big Lots. The company has raised millions since 2015 to provide support for the facility because of its mission, he said.

“It’s a very important cause, something people in Ohio should be very proud to have and one of the best children’s facilities in the U.S., if not the world,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Police: Two shot during high school football game in Florida
Police: Two shot during high school football game in Florida

Two people were shot at a practice football game in Palm Beach, Florida Friday night according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. “Deputies have arrived on scene and are currently gathering more information. We do not believe this is an active shooter incident,” Spokeswoman Teri Barbera told the Palm Beach Post. “Suspect...
Avoid low-carb diets if you want to live longer, study suggests
Avoid low-carb diets if you want to live longer, study suggests

Previous studies have shown how a low-carb diet can help with weight loss, but cutting such foods might also shorten your life, according to a new report.  Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston recently conducted a study, published in the Lancet, to determine the long-term effects of restricting carbohydrates.  To do...
ESPN will not air national anthem before Monday Night Football
ESPN will not air national anthem before Monday Night Football

ESPN will not air the national anthem before Monday Night Football games, network officials said Friday.  >> Read more trending news  "We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don't think that will change this year,” network president Jimmy Pitaro told Axios. “Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast...
Restaurant receives backlash for hanging pride flag on storefront
Restaurant receives backlash for hanging pride flag on storefront

A restaurant owner in Dorchester, Massachusetts, received a one-star review on Yelp for having a pride flag hanging outside his establishment. Born in Italy, Nino Barbalace's American dream was to obtain U.S. citizenship and open up his own restaurant.  Barbalace eventually achieved both dreams, and now calls Zia Gianna on Dorchester Avenue his...
Recall Roundup: Hair dryers, blending containers and more
Recall Roundup: Hair dryers, blending containers and more

Dangerous hair dryers and blender cups are among the new recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Xtava is recalling nearly a quarter of a million Allure and Allure Pro hair dryers after 18 people reported burns — one case was severe — and two people reported a mild electrical shock. There are 193 reports of the...
More Stories