NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Giving Season Everyday

Thoughtful Treasures Bring Joy to Young Patients, Families

Sampson and Smith smiling and holding gift bags in front of the mailboxes that hold Thoughtful Treasures
Smith (l), senior volunteer engagement manager and lead contact for Thoughtful Treasures at the inn, in front of the kids’ mailboxes with Sampson, who hand-delivered gift bags to the inn in December

Photo:  Dana Sampson

Sampson and Smith stand smiling in front of tall Christmas tree inside the Children's Inn.
Sia Lakshmi Sampson (l) with Meghan Arbegast Smith at the Children’s Inn

Photo:  Dana Sampson

Smith holding gift bags stands in front of entrance to Children's Inn. Sign above door: The Children's Inn Welcomes You
Smith in front of the Children's Inn

Photo:  Dana Sampson/HRSA

It’s fun and exciting at any age to receive a treat in the mail, especially for children—even more so for kids with serious illnesses. At the Children’s Inn at NIH, where children, teens and young adults from all over the world reside with their families while undergoing medical treatment at the Clinical Center, pediatric patients and their siblings receive treats just about every day, thanks to the Thoughtful Treasures initiative.

Every inn resident is assigned a mailbox. Each morning, they race to their mailboxes to see what treasures await. The anticipation is part of the thrill. The treasure might be a homemade craft or stuffed animal or a small toy. Some youngsters take their treasures to their medical visits to play with while waiting for treatment. The goodies bring a bit of cheer and comfort to patients and their families during an uncertain and scary time. 

On Dec. 18, Sia Lakshmi Sampson, age 13, delivered 50 gift bags to patients as part of an annual charitable giving tradition every December for her birthday celebration. Each gift bag was curated to include such holiday-themed items as a bracelet, pop-it fidget keychain, activity books and a signed card. 

Sampson, who aspires to be a physician when she grows up, is the daughter of Dana Sampson, a former NIH’er who now works at the Health Resources and Services Administration. Sampson said she has sought to explain her daughter’s reported exhilaration following selfless service to others by introducing the “helper’s high.” Research has shown that helper’s high can lower stress levels, boost self-esteem and mood, and may even enhance the body’s immune function. Sia said she has a deeper appreciation for how giving benefits both giver and recipient.

Sia said giving to those in need makes her feel good while bringing joy to others. 

“I hope these gifts make the patients feel excited and cared for,” she said. “I want them to feel happy even though they’re going through difficult times. Any time I’ve ever helped someone feel better, my heart soars and I can’t help but smile the rest of the day…Giving is something I love doing.”

Anyone can donate to Thoughtful Treasures. To learn how and where to drop off a donation any time of year, see: 

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)