Fresh is the word: Smoothie Sundays

Get the lowdown on WCK’s Smoothie Sundays program

 

June 2024

Smoothie Sundays staff and volunteers stood together smiling.

Smoothie Sundays started in 2019 as one of WCK’s first fully fledged programs. Two founding Board Members, Mina and Russell, brought it to life with the hope of meeting families on floor T8 at BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) and providing them with something immediately nourishing and helpful.

 

The program was popular with families and hospital staff, who loved getting a fresh blended treat, until it went on hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions that came from it.

A photo of the Smoothie Sunday QR code menu and some packs of fresh vegetables

"The program is awesome: An amazing treat during hospital stays​​."

“We love Smoothie Sundays on T8! It’s such a treat, and we always look forward to it.”

A dazzling comeback

A mom and her baby. Mom is holding a smoothie and her baby is reaching for it

2023 brought in WCK’s first opportunity to get back into the hospital to restart Smoothie Sundays, and we jumped at the chance to revive it. Since restarting the program last October, we’ve already blended over 600 made-to-order smoothies. 

 

A simple smoothie still proves to be a fantastic way to connect with families at the hospital and learn more from them about what makes life easier. As well as providing something practical and filling, Smoothie Sundays offers a valuable check in with people. It’s great that we can tell families we’ll be there every couple of weeks and they can talk to us about anything.

 

“We love Smoothie Sundays! Everyone gets so excited when they arrive.” 

“Getting the fresh fruits and veggies is such a treat. Having the program on Sundays is great because the weekends are long in the hospital and it's something to look forward to.”

“It’s such a nice healthy treat and always exciting for my kiddo! Thank you.”

Program perks

“Fresh food” has been a frequent and consistent request from families in the hospital, and Smoothie Sundays is a great way of providing incredibly fresh, nutritious fare.

 

Along with fruit-based smoothies, we provide veggie packs that are flying off the shelves. We’ve received a lot of feedback in emails and on the hospital whiteboard about how much people love the vegetables.

Three smoothies in a row, one purple, one yellow, one green, and three veggie packs
A photo of the smoothie ingredients and veggie packs laid out on a table

Each smoothie is custom made – our VIP recipients can order anything they want from the menu, and there’s an endless number of flavour combinations from the ingredients we offer. There’s no soy or gluten in any of the smoothies, but they can also be made dairy-free, nut-free, vegan, and more!

 

We wash the blenders after each use and make sure one blender has never been near any nuts, so the offerings are allergy-friendly. Someone recently wrote on the order form that they were “allergic to a lack of smoothies” so we worked swiftly to remedy that!

We offer a smoothie to anybody who’s there. For the child with a diagnosis, usually only one caregiver can stay with them full time, but on the weekends more family and loved ones can be there, so we get to provide something for them, too.

 

Smoothies are also for the staff – nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, and everyone else who keeps things running on floor T8. It’s a small token from us of how much we appreciate them – they work hard and deserve a treat.

A family enjoying smoothies together

“Smoothie Sunday is so exciting – we love it! As staff, it makes our day and we feel so appreciated.”

“The Smoothie Sundays program is the BEST! Families love it too. Thank you very much :)”

“Smoothie Sundays have a positive impact and restore my energy for working.”

A boy smiling and holding his thumb up to the camera with a WCK sticker on it

Another perk of this on-site program is that it puts a face to the WCK name for families. Our posters, stickers, and t-shirts can be found all around the eighth floor of BCCH, and we love that we now get to complement this by showing up in person and giving kids and caregivers a bigger window into the WCK community and programs we’d love to welcome them into.

 

We’re still working to make sure everyone knows about the support that’s available through WCK, and being there in person and available to chat can make the pathway into programs feel so much easier.

How it works

On a Smoothie Sunday, we first load up all the equipment and materials at the WCK office, then go grocery shopping for the ingredients. To estimate how much we need, we’ve been working from the most smoothies we had ever made in one session and preparing for that. But just this past weekend, we broke that record by blending up 65 smoothies!

 

The WCK staff and volunteer team meets at BCCH and sets everything up, the nurses help to hand out order forms to all the patient rooms, and there’s a short wait for orders to roll in. The team then gets busy blending up the smoothies, cleaning everything up in between orders and afterwards. 

A volunteer pouring a smoothie from the blender into a cup

The team lead brings the smoothies to the nurses’ station for pick-up or delivery to rooms. Some people will come to pick them up from the family lounge and we get to chat with them. Many of the kids like to come and see us, and they’re excited to place an order – it can feel very grown up to decide what they want and watch it being made.

“What difference does Smoothie Sundays NOT make! It brings freshness into the lives of children and families on the 8th floor and has everyone looking forward to something. A smoothie gives children who are on treatment something new to eat which hopefully cheers them up and gives them energy. Smoothie Sundays shows families that WCK is here to support them through their journey. Food is such a beautiful way to connect with others and this program does just that.”

– Volunteer

Learning along the way

 

WCK is all about adaptive programming, and learning from families as the true experts of their experience. Some of the things we’ve learned along the way include: 

 

  • Not to buy mixed berries – some kids really don’t like it. For some it’s a taste or colour preference, and others are averse to tiny seeds. We now know it’s better to separate everything out. 
  • To grow what works. Offering a simple smoothie on a Sunday seems like a little thing, but it can brighten someone’s entire day, especially when they are largely confined to the hospital. For this reason, and because of the program’s popularity, we found the means to grow our capacity and visit more regularly, twice a month as of 2024. 
  • To provide an online menu. It makes ordering fast and straightforward, and it’s easier for families in isolation as it reduces the number of physical materials being brought into their surroundings.

What could be next

A volunteer blending a smoothie in the blender

The main WCK priority is to provide sustainable programs, because we know the importance of consistency during the treatment experience. As we dream of what else is possible, one thing that would make expansion more likely is a dedicated group of volunteers to take Smoothie Sundays forward, allowing WCK staff to experiment with new ideas.

 

On request from families, we’ve started stocking the family lounge freezer with waffles. Food Programs Coordinator Alice would love to explore the idea of a waffle bar. Food Programs Assistant Corrie loves the idea of running Ice Cream Sundays, too. Whatever form our programs end up taking, it’s with the support of passionate people and generous partners that we’ll do more to nourish, equip, and empower families.

Speaking of generous partners, we want to thank Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Program for a $3,000 grant and Safeway Canada’s Community Action Fund for $3,000 worth of gift cards to help cover the costs of smoothie ingredients this year. 

 

An ongoing hope that lies at the core of the WCK team is that families feel ever more comfortable talking with us and letting us know what works, what doesn’t, and what else they want to see. So many good things have come out of showing up on a Sunday to blend some delicious smoothies, and this program shows what’s possible from finding simple and fun ways to show you care.

AliceCheung

Hey! I'm Alice.

Want to learn more about WCK Food Programs? Reach out to our Food Programs Coordinator Alice Cheung at alice.cheung[at]wckfoundation.ca.