WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Wausau's Trista Dolphin is the latest recipient of the Jefferson Award. Dolphin puts together Easter baskets for families who are stuck in the hospital during the holidays.
She's one of a dozen people you've met over the course of this year, honored with a Jefferson Award. Established in 1972, it recognizes businesses, schools and individuals who answer the call to action for volunteers.
"Everybody does Christmas and Thanksgiving and everybody kind of forgets Easter," said Dolphin.
Dolphin's two sons were born prematurely. When one of them was born near the holiday season, preparing decorations and holiday treats didn't even cross her mind.
"You go to your friends, you go to your family, you have that big dinner, but when you have a baby in the hospital, you don't want to leave," said Dolphin.
Dolphin's trying time sparked an interesting idea -- What if she could help other families who go through the same thing by spreading a little holiday cheer?
In 2009, Dolphin and her husband put together Easter baskets for children in hospitals across Wisconsin. And this year, their effort expanded.
"The whole community jumped in," Dolphin said. "The stores and restaurants did candy wars and it was just awesome."
She calls it "The Bunny Hop." They gather crayons and coloring books, toys and treats, card games and candy. Even though the baskets are geared towards the younger crowd, Dolphin said it's a gift for the entire family.
"You're not only touching the children that are sick," said Dolphin. "You're reaching the siblings and stuff who usually get left out."
She remembers one experience vividly, of two girls who spotted her bunny ears as she made rounds at a hospital.
"We got just loads of boxes filled full of baskets and they can see them. And you can hear their dad going, they're probably not for you, they're probably not for you, it's for the sick kids," said Dolphin. "And then we walk in and they each get a basket and I made sure they each got a princess named one and they just flipped. It was the most awesome feeling in the world."
Dolphin already started planning for her third year, sharing hope through the Hop, and gaining non-profit status. But it hasn't been an easy process.
"It's like a thousand different pages of paperwork and it costs a lot of money," said Dolphin. "Just to file the paperwork is more money than we've probably spent in the last two years."
Dolphin hopes her baskets multiply like rabbits in 2011. Her new goal -- more than 500.
"It's nice to be able to help the people to take that load off their back, and the stress even if it's just for half an hour or a half a day at least you're trying to help," said Dolphin.
If you want to find out how to donate to the Bunny Hop, you can email Dolphin at email@example.com.
Dolphin and all our winners are eligible to move on to the national competition. Newsline 9 Jefferson Awards are presented by Marshfield Clinic.
Online Reporter: Anna Carrera
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