It all started with a penguin.
In 2019, Rosslyn Campbell of Moorefield rushed into an emergency room with a severe allergic reaction.
While waiting for a doctor at Palmerston District Hospital, the then-three-year-old remembers a kind nurse handing her a stuffed penguin.
Campbell’s mother, Claire Ross, said her daughter instantly snuggled the toy animal.
“It made her feel so safe and special,” Claire said. “And that’s how it all began, with this one very special penguin.”
Each year since, Rosslyn, now seven, is determined to give back by donating bins of stuffed animals to local hospitals in Palmerston and Mount Forest.
“We decided to plant our own pumpkin patch. We had so many, so Rosslyn and her younger brother Carson, decided to sell pumpkins to their neighbours, friends and family,” Claire said. “Every day when Rosslyn would get off the bus, she would run to check in on her pumpkin sales.”
At the end of the first season, Rosslyn counted her hard-earned money and made the decision to buy stuffed animals for the local hospital.
“I want kids to have a friend if they are hurt,” she said.
According to Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation representatives, Rosslyn's pumpkin patch is a local favourite for many.
This year, Claire submitted her daughter’s story to the hospital’s Radiothon’s Story Writing Contest, and Campbell was chosen as one as one of the prize-winners.
Rosslyn hopes other kids will feel safe at the hospital if they are hurt or scared.
Since running her own pumpkin stand, her brother Carson has also joined in the effort by helping to grow, wash and sort pumpkins.
“He also helps count the money and buy stuffed animals, too,” Claire said.
“He actually wants to donate his own stuffed animals. But we had to tell him that we can only donate brand new ones. He just really wants to help.”
Claire said her children always make it a special point to be able to deliver the stuffed animals to the hospital in person.
“The kids really look forward to doing that. A good friend of ours works at the Louise Marshall Hospital. Back in 2020, during COVID-19, she accepted the stuffed animals and the kids were able to deliver them to the ER team,” she said.
As for the future, Claire said her daughter plans to continue with more pumpkins and more stuffed animals.
“Well, I kind of feel like we have to now. People look forward to our pumpkins each year and they always ask about them,” Claire said.
“It makes Rosslyn happy to know that other kids in hospital can find some comfort with a stuffed animal."
As a mother, Claire said it’s pretty amazing to see her daughter show such empathy and compassion for others who are hurt.
Every so often, staff at the hospital do reach out to Rosslyn to let her know where the stuffed animals have gone.
“One of the nurses called Rosslyn saying a little boy was in last week. He had a broken arm, and was given a stuffed zebra. Rosslyn was just overjoyed at hearing the news,” Claire said.
“It just makes her happy to hear that other kids aren’t scared.”