The LGBTQ Center Long Beach is extending its support of people affected by HIV/AIDS in the community beyond the walls of the Center. For the first time, they have organized a toy drive to benefit the holiday party for the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

The Bickerstaff Center cares for infants, children, adolescents and pregnant women who are at risk for, or infected with, HIV/AIDS, acute community-acquired illnesses, chronic infections and other immunological disorders.

A diagnosis of HIV/AIDS can be life-changing and can come with a variety of emotions at the time of diagnosis and throughout a person’s lifetime. The Bickerstaff Center provides comprehensive care that not only addresses the medical needs of patients and their families, but their emotional and social needs as well. One of the ways they do that is through their annual holiday party.

“Our holiday party gives our families a chance to connect with other families going through similar experiences and to interact with our doctors and care teams in a non-clinical setting,” says Debi Fingerhut, child life specialist, Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “It’s also a chance for them to forget about their diagnosis and just have a fun holiday experience as a family.” 

Hundreds of families come back to the hospital each year to enjoy a day of holiday fun complete with a visit from Santa, and of course presents!

While this is their first toy drive, it’s not the first time the Center has supported the Bickerstaff Center. For the last several years, the Center has attended the Dec. 1 World AIDS Day celebration at Miller Children’s & Women’s that raises awareness for HIV/AIDS and encourages the community to get tested and know their status.

Additionally, three years ago when the Center decided to re-launch AIDS Walk Long Beach, they chose the Bickerstaff Center as one of the walk’s beneficiaries. Since 2017, the Bickerstaff Center has remained a beneficiary, and the Center has raised thousands of dollars to support its patients and families.

“It is such an inspiration to see how much support the staff at the Bickerstaff Center offers the city of Long Beach” says Ismael Salamanca, Director of Health Services at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach. “Seeing their AIDS Walk Long Beach team, all with their themed capes and huge smiles walking our 5k fundraiser is always a treat for staff and volunteers.”

“We’re so grateful to the Center for continuing to keep our patients and families in their hearts, not just during this holiday season but for so many years,” says Fingerhut. “It’s important for our organizations to continue to lift each other up in support of people affected by HIV/AIDS in the greater Long Beach community, and we couldn’t have a better partner than the Center.”