Visions of sugar plums: how Christmas comes to Children’s of Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018, Regions Bank
Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Sugar Plum Shop 2018, Regions Bank
Children’s of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018. Photos by Terri Robertson for Bham now

Christmas is a hard time to be in the hospital for patients and families. But at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, the day is a little brighter thanks to the annual Sugar Plum Shop. Hospital staff, corporate partners and community volunteers build and operate this free, in-hospital toy store.

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Christmas
Christmas decorations in Children’s of Alabama lobby. Photo by Bham Now

To step inside Children’s of Alabama this time of year is to visit a Christmas wonderland. When I came to visit on opening day of the Sugar Plum Shop last Thursday, tree after gloriously decorated tree greeted me in the halls as I walked to my destination. Then finally, I found the elves.

The Sugar Plum Shop

The “elves” were in fact employee volunteers from Regions Bank in Birmingham, which sponsors the event each year. They were busy at work helping parents and other family members select gifts for young patients and their siblings.

Even more magical—everything was free. Sponsors and the community donated everything inside. 

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018, Regions Bank
A volunteer from Regions Bank helps a parent pick out age-appropriate gifts. Photo by Bham Now

More than 500 children benefit from the Sugar Plum Shop annually, with each receiving at least five gifts as well as a book, a stuffed animal and a family board game.

A sea of Radio Flyer tricycles at the Sugar Plum Shop. Photo by Bham Now
Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018, gloves, socks, toys, Christmas
Toys and winter comfies at the Sugar Plum Shop. Photo by Bham Now

The Children’s Family Services department, which includes Child Life and the Sunshine School, hosts the Sugar Plum Shop event. The department helps children cope with the stress and uncertainty of hospitalization, and bringing the holidays to the hospital is one way the team normalizes the environment.

“The Sugar Plum Shop is Children’s way of empowering families. They get to choose how the gifts are distributed. The gifts are from the parents, not from Children’s.” 

Jennifer Deneke, director of family services at Children’s of Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018, Child Life, Jennifer Deneke
Jennifer Deneke, director of family services at Children’s of Alabama. Photo by Bham Now
Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama Sugar Plum Shop 2018, Regions Bank, puzzles, toys
Puzzles at the Sugar Plum Shop. Photo by Bham Now

Related: Holiday poison safety with Ann Slattery of Children’s of Alabama Regional Poison Control Center