When Victoria “Jerzei” Swanson came in to the ER at UCHealth Pikes Peak Regional Hospital after a fall a year ago, she was scared and unhappy.
Jerzei fell on a nail which impacted her abdomen. The wound required 5 stitches.
To calm Jerzei down, a kind doctor handed her a stuffed bear and Jerzei, then 9 years old, felt much better.
When she overheard staffers talking about a shortage of toys, Jerzei hatched an idea.
She figured she could raise some money for more stuffed animals.
“I wanted to help because I want all the kids to feel happy and more comfortable when they are in the hospital,” Jerzei said.
At home, she had a little bank in the shape of a Tootsie Roll. Jerzei started saving money from loose change she was given by her parents. Thus, it was the beginning of her passion to be a young philanthropist.
Two weeks after her ER visit, she returned to the hospital with $7.73. She told Debbie Romero, admissions director at the hospital, that she wanted it to go for toys for other kids.
Jerzei had her first taste of being a philanthropist and she loved it.
She tried to figure out how she could raise more money and her candy-themed piggy bank sparked another sweet idea: she could sell Jolly Ranchers for 25 cents each to family, friends and neighbors in Lake George where she lives.
She later added other items like Tootsie Rolls for 5 cents and water guns for $1.
“I get a little help from my mom and dad sometimes,” Jerzei said.
Her earnings grew steadily and in June of this year, Jerzei returned once again to Pikes Peak Regional Hospital.
This time, Jerzei brought in $105.58. She now has a special nickname at the hospital: “The Jolly Rancher Girl.”
Jerzei’s donation is very much appreciated, said Arianne Randolph, director of human resources, who received the donation on behalf of PPRH. The donation will be used to purchase small toys for the Emergency Department.
“Jerzei’s kindness will help ease the anxiety some young patients have when they visit our hospital,’’ Randolph said.
While some kids save money to buy something special for themselves, Jerzei’s passion is helping others. And she plans to keep her project going.
“I hope it gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Jerzei, who is now 10 and in the fifth grade at the Lake George Charter School.
Along with generosity, her passions include drawing, painting and studying wolves and fossils.
She might like to be a paleontologist someday.
But for now, being a Jolly Rancher Girl suits her just fine.
“When I have an idea, I want to use it!”