By Rachel Kruer
Daily Staff Reporter
Medical student Rusty Rae played the part of one of Santa’s elves for eight hours this past weekend, raising money to put smiles on the faces of hospitalized children.
As a fourth-year medical student, Rae has little time to spare between residency interviews. But on Friday morning by 8 a.m., Rae was outside — bucket in hand — asking students and citizens of Ann Arbor for donations. He spent eight hours in the cold raising money for Galen’s Tag Days, which ran throughout Friday and Saturday.
This year marked the 78th Galen’s Tag Days. Galen’s Medical Society, an group of medical school students, organizes the event to raise money for the University’s C.S. Mott Hospital and other charities.
About 80 percent of the proceeds pay for toys and games to be placed in a recreational facility for the children of the hospital. Society President Kirsten Salmeen said these gifts raise the morale of the children of Mott’s Hospital. “It gives the opportunity for kids that are hospital-bound to act like kids.”
Salmeen, a fourth-year medical student, also mentioned how during one of her clinicals she witnessed first-hand the benefits of the playing facility. Salmeen said the safe play area allowed one mother to let her three-year-old play, granting her time to focus on her baby, who was born with heart defects.
“It’s the smallest things that change these people’s days,” she said.
The other 20 percent of the proceeds go to various organizations that help the children of Washtenaw County. In the past, GMS has distributed the additional money to Ann Arbor’s Corner Health Center, the Ronald McDonald House and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
This year the total of all the collected buckets reached $43,677. This accounts for 60 percent of the total revenue, Salmeen said. A mail drive targeting about 3,500 alumni, previous donors, faculty and physicians brings in the remaining 40 percent. So far, Salmeen estimates that the society has raised about $8,000 through the mail-in campaign. The drive will continue into February.
She added that in years past, the overall revenue ranged from $50,000 to $80,000.
Every bucket contained the picture of this year’s poster child, Allie. Since her infancy, Allie has been in and out of the hospital due to cystic fibrosis. Third-year medical student Cara Cimmino interacted with the 7 year old during one of her pediatric clinicals.
“She’s very bubbly and even drew pictures for the staff members. She’s had her ups and downs, but she’s always been a tough, mature kid. It’s a sad fact, but she knows everything about her care,” Cimmino said.
The event is two days long and always takes place the first Friday and Saturday of December. On Friday, GMS members dispersed into the streets of Ann Arbor at 6 a.m. With shifts of three to four hours, volunteers alternated late into the night until the end of Midnight Madness, during which Main Street shops annually kick off the holiday shopping season by staying open late. On Saturday, people in red smocks clutching buckets could be visible from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Salmeen estimated that about 130 people lent their time to raise money. She attributed this nearly 25 percent increase from previous years to the inclusion of many non-GMS members who wanted to help the cause.
On Saturday, Rae took on another shift to stand outside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to collect money outside of the Michigan Union. However, Rae said he was not as successful as the previous day, when he was positioned in front of Mott. He claimed that he and two other people stationed with him raised between $5,000 and $6,000 in a span of eight hours.
The majority of the money came from checks that physicians and other patrons of the hospital prepared to donate in advance. “This is a tradition that people look forward to every year,” he explained.
Faculty showed their support for Rae and other volunteers him by taking off time to drive the “happy vans.” The mission of the happy vans, according to Medical Prof. David Rosen, was to distribute hot chocolate, food and other aid for those collecting money.
As a student member of the society while attending the Medical School, Rosen participated in the event for three consecutive years. He added that he has assisted the event 11 out of the 14 years he has been a faculty member at the University. “We want the students to know that the (faculty) are there to support them,” he said.