Valpo nursing students
MCC photo/Nadine Zook Miller

Senior pediatric nursing students at Valparaiso University pack infant care kits as part of a baby shower event. The students raised money, gathered donated supplies and assembled 59 kits plus extra supplies for MCC to distribute around the world.

Pediatric nursing students at Valparaiso University in Indiana recently held a baby shower. There were the usual cute baby onesies and receiving blankets and little hats, but there was something different about this baby shower. There was no expectant mother or father. This “baby shower” was actually a unique way to gather and assemble infant care kits for MCC.

Following a successful first event in April 2019, Christina Cavinder, Assistant Professor of Nursing, and her pediatric nursing students were planning for a second annual baby shower this April. When the coronavirus pandemic halted their plans, they were determined to make it happen safely this fall. On November 11, just before all classes moved strictly online again, their plans came to fruition.

Ben Ratschan is a senior nursing student who wants to work in pediatrics. “A kit can go a long way to help someone and their loved ones,” he said. “I can give something to someone far away without being there in person.”

Ben Ratschan, senior nursing student at Valparaiso University, puts together an infant care kit as part of a baby shower event held by pediatric nursing students.MCC photo/Nadine Zook Miller

That broader impact is something that Cavinder saw resonate among her students. “We always go on cultural immersion trips on spring break where we go to different countries to learn about other cultures’ healthcare systems,” she said. “Students love doing that, but we can’t do that now with COVID. So this was huge for them, that they could do something even though they can’t leave the country.”

The event involved a lot more than simply taking a couple of hours to pack supplies into kits. They began brainstorming months before the event on how to raise money, selected the best ideas and broke off into groups to conquer the challenges. Students put up fliers, set up bins for collection and made posters.

All the students were directly involved by making donations themselves, but they also collected funds and kit items throughout the year from employers, churches and local organizations. In the past they held fundraisers on campus like bake sales and caramel apple stations, but of course this year they had to get creative. They coordinated a successful raffle for an Amazon gift card using Venmo for folks to purchase tickets.

Cavinder also put together a baby registry on Amazon with necessary kit items like onesies, socks, receiving blankets and soap. Baby supplies started piling up in her office throughout the year, and she used her connections at two local hospitals to encourage sewing groups and volunteers to make blankets and hats.

With the funds that were raised – over $1,300 – a handful of students purchased the clothes and other remaining items needed for the kits. They then sorted them all into sizes, removed the tags and hangers and prepared them for the baby shower kit packing event. 

Kiara Wade, a senior nursing student at Valparaiso University, puts together an infant care kit as part of a baby shower event held by pediatric nursing students.MCC photo/Nadine Zook Miller

The infant care kits are distributed by MCC to families around the world displaced by war or disaster and are used in a number of other settings to help support mothers who lack the supplies they need for a new baby.

At Valparaiso University, service is a core component of their curriculum and all students are required to fulfill community service hours. For students in the pediatric nursing class, their service needs to be related to pediatrics, which can be a struggle for some students.

The idea for this alternative baby shower originated when Cavinder, an avid quilter and sewer, saw an email from a quilting company with an ad highlighting MCC’s need for handmade comforters. Intrigued, she went onto the MCC website for more information where she then saw information about infant care kits. “I thought – perfect! We can do that!” says Cavinder.

At the time, she was also president of the local chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing. They were looking for a fundraising and service event focused on women and children, so she got Sigma on board and invited her students to also get involved. It went over so well with the students, that this second year the class took over the project and Sigma supported it with a monetary donation.

Christina Cavinder’s class of senior pediatric nursing students at Valparaiso University held a baby shower where they assembled 59 infant kits plus extra supplies for MCC to distribute around the world. This was the second year for the event.MCC photo/Nadine Zook Miller

“I think it’s important to help people less fortunate than us,” said Gianna Mickolayck, senior nursing student. “And with everything else they have to deal with, the least we can do is give them some supplies to take care of their children.”

For the November 2020 event, there were changes made to follow local public health guidelines regarding COVID-19. There were no cupcakes and punch, less than 20 people were allowed in the room at a time and everyone was spaced appropriately and wearing masks. They used individual desks rather than one table as an assembly line.

But one thing that didn’t change was the energy and goodwill that was palpable. In total, the group of 18 senior students assembled 59 kits plus extra supplies, topping their 2019 total of 27. The dean of the university even attended the event this year.

"It was so exciting to see the enthusiasm of the students," said Nadine Zook Miller, MCC Great Lakes material resources coordinator. "I know they worked hard to make this happen, and the increase in number from last year is a testament to their dedication to the project."

This year’s baby shower may have just ended, but Cavinder’s office is already starting to fill back up with items for next year’s baby shower!

For more information about infant care kits: