I must admit that ever since I agreed to have a Kids are Heroes Day at the FSK Mall I have been becoming more and more obsessed about it. After all, this is a wonderful opportunity for all the “heroes” involved, especially MaryMargaret. Whatever becomes of this website I am convinced that it will open many doors for her. The marketing department at the mall tentatively agreed to make this a yearly event. I wonder how far we will have progressed by next year. This is part of the fun of having it. Nonetheless I do believe the website will continue to have a positive effect on children in the Frederick area and beyond. We are just about to recognize John Sun, who is an eight year old boy who has been diligently working most of the summer on his project to create gift baskets for families with premature babies. We are proud of his accomplishments to date and to come, and are also a little boastful that our website had something to do with his development.
Anyway, the fountain coin project starts on Monday – we will be there to take pictures. As mentioned, for a year (excluding November and December) the fountain coins at the mall will go to one hero’s charity each month and September kicks off with MaryMargaret getting the coins for the Frederick County Animal Shelter. And the big day is Saturday, September 6th. All we can hope for is a good turn out and for everything to go smoothly. I’m sure that both these wishes will come true.
Well yesterday was the day to drive up to Norristown and see my Aunt Mary again. As we left we thought it wise to call ahead and make sure she was OK for visitors. That turned out to be a good idea not only for the reason mentioned, but it also gave her something to look forward to. I was honestly not aware how much she wanted us to visit, because this would be only the second time in some twenty years that we have seen her (the first time was just a few months ago). We discovered that she was indeed looking forward to it as we arrived – she was waiting out in the hallway for us. We presented her with the digital photo frame and showed her how it worked as well as some of the pictures stored on it. She seemed to be mildly interested in that – she was much more bent on engaging us in conversation. That’s a good thing. ( I’ve always been curious why when family gets together and people haven’t seen each other in a long time, that sooner or later the television gets turned on.) So I totally understood and was somewhat happy that she pretty much ignored the picture frame. Maybe she will get some solace from it when she is alone. Due to some traffic hangups we arrived a little late – about 1:45. We arrive after lunch as she has some form of dysphagia which means she must have all of her food pureed as she has difficulty swallowing and she would rather us not witness her eating. After we went through some pictures we settled down to conversation which is where it seems that Aunt Mary is the happiest. She told us about learning to swim in the Schuylkill river, which was interesting to us as we passed over it when we left. She told us another story about my adopted cousin which I never heard, that his mother gave birth to him in a hospital where my Aunt Ann worked as a nurse. It turned out that my cousin’s birth mother was married to a man in the military who had been recently killed in WWII. Her father would not let her keep the baby, so my Aunt Ann adopted him. MaryMargaret put on a bit of a show for Aunt Mary, reliving her recent participation in a local “High School Musical” play. She seemed to enjoy that very much, as she giggled and clapped when she was done. Mary was one of six children – the other five being boys. She said that many nights she would put on similar shows for her family.
With my new found tool of bringing videos into play (no pun intended), I thought I might put this to some good use. The video above is a nice representation of what we do at Wags for Hope, although it doesn’t capture the special moments when an animal team makes an incredible breakthrough. Nevertheless, it is a good video and does represent us well. I’m hoping that the powers that be in Frederick County see this, as they have yet to allow us into hospitals. In the beginning I thought that it sort of made sense, because we had no reputation to fall back on. Two years down the road our record is still spotless, so I feel that it is time. The problem has been that the infection control people within the hospital dictate this decision, and rather than come up with a policy to allow animals it is apparently easier to say they are not allowed. Besides what the video portrays, there are many applications where a therapy pet can do wonders inside a hospital:
1) Children’s Ward: Do I even have to explain this one?
2) Staging area for children’s procedures: When my daughter was 6, she had a rare condition called osteomyelitis in her arm. It was so severe the doctors had to rule out leukemia. To do that they had to perform multiple tests, some of which required her to be put to sleep. The anxiety she suffered before each test was heartbreaking for us. A therapy dog would have done wonders in this case.
3) I can’t think of an area where a therapy pet would NOT be helpful. I have heard stories of these animals bringing people out of comas with the entire family present. Could you imagine…
I am not naive enough to think that all that need be done is the hospitals open their doors and we walk in wherever we please. There would have to be conditions, and special places where we would be allowed. Other areas would be off limits. At NIH they have a vet check each animal before it comes in. The point is they do this because they see the value. It took eleven years for National Capital Therapy Dogs to get into NIH. I hope we don’t have to wait that long.
It’s getting close to the time when we go back to Norristown, PA to visit my 98-year-old Aunt Mary in the Regina Nursing Center. The whole family (including Charlie) will make the three hour trek again. Normally this sort of thing would be considered a chore to some, but I am really looking forward to it. Having visited hundreds of people in nursing homes I do not hold it against them if they are bitter about the experience – I constantly wonder what my disposition would be given the same set of circumstances. And to be honest, the ones that complain are not the most fun to be around. But Aunt Mary is different. You can sense that she’d be happier at home, but never complains about the situation. In fact, she is a joy to be around (and always was).
After seeing digital picture frames in some of the rooms that I normally visit, I thought this was a wonderful idea for a gift for Aunt Mary. We went to Costco and got one – then the chore became filling it with pictures. I solicited pics from the family and added many of our own. My sister Maureen had several pictures of Aunt Mary and her husband George, and kindly sent them for me to scan. Looking at them made me think about my own mortality, and reminded me again how special the elderly are. Here is a picture of Mary and George from somewhere around 1940 (my best guess), followed by a picture we took on our last visit:
I hope this new found respect for the elderly that I have gained is a result of visiting Aunt Mary and others at nursing homes, and not just because I am finding myself to be close to the “on deck circle”.
A few months ago I noticed a sign at the Wendy’s in Frederick next to the Sheetz. It read something about Colleen McCarrick being some sort of Heisman Trophy finalist. It was a bit confusing because I am used to Heisman Trophies being awarded to male college athletes. However, I forgot about it after a while as I had other things on my mind. In my recent Internet search for local Frederick heroes to help emcee Kids are Heroes Day, somehow I tripped over that name again. After further digging I realized that I knew her mother Susan, as she was an early applicant for the Wags for Hope program. I discovered that Colleen was quite accomplished, as she was one of six female finalists for the 2007 Wendy’s High School Heisman award. This obviously clarified the sign I saw earlier. According to www.wendysheismanblog.com, ”The award honors both male and female high school students who excel in academics, athletics, and student leadership.” She was selected for this honor among 32,000 students nationwide. But this was not all I discovered. She has achieved other accolades, but one article I uncovered caught my eye. According to the Gazette, she started something called the “Kids’ Theater” when she was 12. The cast of her plays consist of actors under the age of 18, and the proceeds go directly to a charity of her choosing. This year’s goal was to raise money to buy a $3000.00 exercise bike for a friend who “has a lot of orthopedic issues”, according to his mom. After uncovering all this I felt that she was a perfect candidate to be one of our hosts for Kids are Heroes Day. I reconnected with her mom and they both agreed that she would be there.
Well Colleen’s big night was last night. We went up to Middletown High to check out her production of “Enchanted Sleeping Beauty”. I was amazed to see upwards of 40 kids involved in the play, all donning period costumes. The set was great and the play was very enjoyable. I was so impressed that it was all put on by high school kids and younger. My choice of emcee couldn’t have been better. Colleen is an adult version of many of the heroes we recognize today. Part of the “perks” of being involved with Kids are Heroes is meeting people like Colleen.
As I watched the piece they did on Frederick 360, I was reminded once again how important Charlie is to me (and a few other folks too). I will always have this video of him to cherish, seeing him “in action” bringing comfort to people. The piece didn’t mention our efforts with R.E.A.D., nor did it show our website. I guess I can’t be too disappointed, because it gave us great exposure and hopefully will gain us more good will in the community and some new recruits. I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that I was in it so much – it was hard to get the sense of how many others are involved and what they all do for the organization. Since the onset I have done none of this alone – many people put in a lot of effort to get us started (a few of whom are no longer with us). Becoming a corporation and achieving non-profit status is no simple task, but with the people we had, we got it done the first time. There are so many people who have taken ownership of Wags for Hope and we are all so blessed and humbled to have them. We have several committees each run by a different person who is dedicated to bettering our group in one way or another. We have a self-appointed ambassador who is making it her goal to get us spread out further into Washington County, and another who is doing the same thing in West Virginia. We have a lady who has the thankless job of managing the paperwork for the entire organization. She also helps on the Training and Education Committee. She used to visit with her dog but sadly her pet passed away. She never gets the “glory” but is always there we we need her. My point is that there are so many people that make Wags for Hope what it is, and that is a WONDERFUL group of people who do some very wonderful things. Check them out at this link, and make sure to click on the Teams to see who else is involved.
A couple of weeks ago we taped a series of visits at Citizen’s Care and Rehabilitation Center. This was documented in the “Dusty Update” column written a number of days ago. Well that television spot is now upon us. If you live in the Frederick area and have Comcast cable, tune to Channel 10 tonight at 6:30 to see the show that featured us. They rerun this show three times daily, and we will be featured on it through Monday, August 11. To see all showtimes or to watch the spot online, visit www.fnptv.com and click on Frederick 360.