The word “free” holds a very special place in the hearts of our men and women in uniform. But one day a year, for a few troops from a local National Guard unit, “free” has as much to do with the cost of toys as it does with patriotic ideals.
For the second December in a row, the troop made an early morning, 5-mile march from their barracks in Dorchester to Boston Children’s Hospital, their military-issued backpacks brimming with toys to be donated to children in the hospital.
When they arrived the troop received a hero’s welcome: patients, families and staff broke into spontaneous applause and cheers throughout the lobby.
As the soldiers loaded carts full of toys a crowd formed around them, everyone eager to take a picture, shake their hand or give out a hug or high five. The well-wishers were from all over America and the world—some didn’t even speak English—but the spirit of appreciation was not lost in translation.
“It was breathtaking to see how positively people responded,” says Kirsten Getchell, MS, CCLS, a Boston Children’s child life specialist who will distribute the toys over the holidays and throughout the year. “They were happy about the donation, but clearly moved by their service as well.”
The donation march was inspired by Maj. Jason Oberton, whose son was a Boston Children’s patient for five months before succumbing to complications of a congenital heart defect—a story he shared with Getchell as he unloaded his pack.
“Major Oberton spoke so highly about the care his son received while he was a patient here,” she says. “He even mentioned that at one point, hospital staff felt like an extended family to him. It was such a strong reminder about how wonderful a place this hospital can be.”
Happy Holidays from your friends at Thriving!