Small gifts can make the biggest impact: Free Parking Day 2019

helloHOPE Free Parking Day 2019 Recap

How do you measure the impact of a smile, a kind word, or an unexpected treat? We’re learning a little more each year about just how impactful a small gesture can be in bringing hope and encouragement to another family.

On June 20, 2019, our goal was to celebrate and encourage the courageous heroes that visit our local children’s hospitals on a daily basis. Here’s a short recap video from the day:

What happened on Free Parking Day?

Throughout Free Parking Day, teams from the helloHOPE community spent the day at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Egleston and Scottish Rite campuses. We had the privilege of paying the parking fees for every hospital-visiting car across three parking decks that day — 1,318 cars in total!

But that’s not all.

This year, thanks to the generosity of our community, we asked Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta if we could add a few more surprises. In the morning, families at both hospitals were greeted in the lobby with Chick-fil-A biscuits and delicious coffee from our friends over at East Pole Coffee Co. And in the afternoon, we switched gears with free gelato from our friends at Honeysuckle Gelato and drinks from Honest Tea and Hubert’s Lemonade.

One of our favorite moments, though, was the surprise visits from four princesses who brought out some of the biggest smiles we’ve ever seen.

That’s what Free Parking Day is about. It’s a day where our goal is to tangibly remind families that there is a community around them who can help lighten the load. It’s a day to remember the power of a smile in lifting a weary parent out of isolation. It’s about the generosity of a community in celebrating the daily bravery and strength of the families facing a medical diagnosis around us.

How the helloHOPE community made a difference

Our team saw countless looks of surprise, tears of thanks, and speechless looks throughout the day. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look of one little girl who rounded the lobby corner only to be greeted by real, live princesses. With her jaw dropped and her hands planted on her knees, the moment was priceless. Similarly, I remember the calm, relieved look on one parent’s face as she watched her little one catch up with a favorite fairy-tale character.

This year we also had multiple volunteers who showed up for the day because they had been impacted by a previous year’s Free Parking Day and wanted to help spread hope with us. We are honored and humbled by this amazing team and the impact you’re having.

Here are a few quotes from the day that we wanted to share with you:

“Something so small but meant so very much to us that day as we left.”

“My daughter and I were at Scottish Rite for some medical testing yesterday. What a treat to see your volunteers at the parking garage exit… Such a small gesture but it has a big impact! Thank you for being there spreading joy. What a great idea!”

“Thank you. We had just gotten pretty devastating news about our daughter. This was such a nice surprise as we left. It meant a lot.”

“One of my most favorite days of the year!”

And for those of you who like statistics, here are a few fun ones:

  • 352 cups of Honeysuckle gelato

  • 10 gallons of East Pole coffee

  • 200 Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits

  • 180 bottles of Hubert’s Lemonade

  • Surprise visits from 4 princesses

  • 100+ Polaroid-style photos with princesses

  • 1,318 cars received free parking

  • 55 smile-inducing volunteers

Thank you from helloHOPE

We have a few thank you messages we’d like to share with our community.

To our volunteers: Whether you were up late helping us prepare, rose early to run errands and set up, braved Atlanta traffic, or prayed for us from a distance, Free Parking Day would not be a reality without you. Thank you for freely giving of your time and energy and for spreading hope with us.

To our supporters: From individuals to sponsors, thank you for your generosity and for allowing us the opportunity to encourage and celebrate families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Your generosity inspires us.

To CHOA: Thank you for the opportunity to serve the families in your care. We are inspired by the work you do every day and the way you support families from patient rooms to the front desk to the parking cashier booths.

To the families: You are our heroes. Thank you for holding onto hope and for your bravery and strength day-in and day-out. We are honored to serve you!

If you’d like to learn more about us, check out the helloHOPE story and head over to our stories page to get inspiration from some incredible families.

Free Parking Day 2019 Sponsors: Autossey Automotive, Barnes Young Team, East Pole Coffee Co., Good Kitchen + Market, Honest Tea, Honeysuckle Gelato, Hubert’s Lemonade, Lighthouse Family Retreats, North Avenue Capital, See Beautiful, The Innsbruck Cup, The Princess Project