The Polar Place Market Makes Shopping Easy for Families at Seattle Children’s

EllaShopping for Christmas presents wasn’t something Josh and Sharon McPherson had a lot of time to think about this year. All of their time and energy was focused on their 9-year-old daughter Ella, who underwent brain surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital earlier this week. With Christmas day quickly approaching, they didn’t know if they’d be able to find the time or money to buy presents for their four children.

“We barely had time to brush our teeth,” said McPherson. “But as usual, Seattle Children’s thought of everything.”

Bringing a sense of normalcy to families

The Polar Place Market is new to Seattle Children’s this year. It offers parents and caregivers of inpatients a place to shop, free of charge, for presents for their kids without having to leave the hospital. Thanks to generous donations from the community, parents and caregivers were able to hand pick the perfect gift from hundreds of toys, books and movies.

“Families can easily feel overwhelmed, especially around the holidays. They don’t all have the time or money for shopping,” said Katie Shinn, playroom supervisor and member of Seattle Children’s Child Life team. “We receive an abundance of donations from our generous community, and, this year, we wanted to offer a place where families could feel empowered to shop for gifts for their kids and teens.”

Shipping gifts with Alaska Airlines

For 8-year-old Kendall Willis from Fairbanks, Alaska, the thought of children and families having to spend their Christmas in the hospital was sobering. She wanted to help brighten the holidays for sick children, so she decided to collect toys.


Diagnosed with kidney disease at age 4, Kendall spent a large portion of her childhood at Seattle Children’s. The hospital holds a very special place in her heart, which is another reason she wanted to give back in such a big way. She wanted to make sure every child had a present to open on Christmas day.

With the help of many generous donors including the Outpost Alaska and Enchanted Forest Toys, in Fairbanks, they shipped nearly 600 pounds of donated toys to Seattle. The shipment was donated by Alaska Air Cargo and safely arrived to Seattle Children’s just in time for the opening of the Polar Place Market.

Thankful for the generosity of others

Spending Christmas in the hospital is not a fun experience. But at Seattle Children’s, thanks to an abundance of generosity, Christmas may be a little brighter for families this year.

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Seattle Children’s and to all those who donated toys,” said McPherson. “A hospital can be filled with such bad memories, but here, for us, because of the extraordinary care of our physicians and the thoughtfulness of the entire staff, the memories have been nothing but good.”

If you’d like to help patients like Ella, visit our donate page and specify that your gift go to the Toy Fund. The fund allows staff in Children’s Child Life Department to provide toys and activities for patients year-round.