Giving thanks: Stories of volunteerism, gratitude and giving back

Thanksgiving Day is a time rich in family, gratitude and appreciation. In honor of the holiday, we are celebrating the patient families who have traveled through our doors and the selfless acts of kindness and volunteerism that follow.

Donating platelets and cycling for a cause

Ten years ago, Adam Nussenbaum’s son, Max, was treated at Boston Children’s and overcame a life threatening illness. Today, Adam gives his time — and platelets — to help those in need, and he is doing so in celebration of Max; his daughter Kate, who donated her bone marrow to help her brother; and the clinicians, who made his son’s recovery possible.

Shari Abramowitz, Max, Kate and Adam Nussenbaum
Shari Abramowitz, Adam, Kate, and Max Nussenbaum

For the past eight years, Adam has participated in the Pan Mass Challenge and raised over $55,000 to benefit the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Center at Boston Children’s. He also donates platelets on a monthly basis.

“It has been immensely gratifying to know that I have and will continue to play a small role in helping patients like Max on their road to recovery,” he says.

Running for Rachel and paying it forward

Rachel Solomon has been receiving care from Boston Children’s since before birth. At 2 years old, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect body movement and posture, and she continues to manage other conditions including visual impairment, learning disabilities and scoliosis.

Rachel Solomon, 11, with friends and family at the New York Marathon
Rachel Solomon, 11, with friends and family at the New York Marathon

When she was 8, Rachel underwent spinal surgery, selective dorsal rhizotomy. Her mom Jennifer says the surgery was “life changing” and has helped her daughter become more independent.

Rachel, now 11, understands the power of giving back. She is patient partner for Boston Children’s Hospital Trust — a partnership where runners look to a child for inspiration and motivation while training for their race. Rachel also managed water stops at three New York Marathons. Her goal, she says, is to one day, run a race for Boston Children’s.

“I think it’s important to help runners know why they are helping Boston Children’s,” she says. “I like to see their happy faces when they come to a water stop. They make my heart happy.”

Heartfelt thanks: Making pillows for pediatric heart patients

Matthew Hatcher was born with complex congenital heart disease and has been in and out of the hospital many times in his eight years of life. He is primarily cared for near his home in New York, but benefitted from a second opinion from the Boston Children’s Heart Center.

Marie Hatcher and her three sons, Michael, Ryan and Matthew

Matthew’s mother, Marie, is so grateful for her son’s care and wanted to help others. In 2010, she launched “Matthew’s Hearts of Hope,” a non-profit designed to increase awareness, support patients and raise money for cardiac research. One of the group’s largest initiatives is designing, sewing and donating heart-shaped pillows to pediatric-heart patients at various hospitals, including Boston Children’s. Read more about Matthew’s journey and why his mom calls him a “warrior.”

Sharing Emma’s story through innovation and volunteerism

The Morris family’s journey began in 2008 when their twins Emma and Drew were born nine weeks prematurely. Due to the complexity of Emma’s condition, she was transferred to Boston Children’s neonatal intensive care unit at 1 month old and spent the next 296 days under the care of a team of specialists. Today, Emma is doing well. She is in the third grade, full of energy and thriving.

Jon and Sarah Morris and their twins, Emma and Drew
Jon and Sarah Morris and their twins, Emma and Drew

When it came time to thank those who cared for their daughter, Jon and Sarah Morris opted to share their ingenuity and voice with other families.

Inspired by Emma and her medical journey, Jon developed a product idea called the “smart pulse oximeter,” wearable medical device which monitors data in real time.  Sarah shares her time with Boston Children’s as a member of the Family Advisory Council and Emergency Department Advisory Council and is an active member or the Boston Children’s Hospital Trust and other hospital-wide committees.

“Being involved and volunteering my time to help spread the family voice is what makes me grateful to give back,” Sarah says. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach my twins how important it is to help others and say, ‘thank you.’” Read more about Emma’s journey and Jon’s medical innovation.

Thomas’ toys: Collecting new toys for Boston Children’s

When 5-year old Thomas was being treated for Kawasaki disease, he had to stay overnight in the hospital for days on end. At first, he was on precaution status, which meant he couldn’t leave his room for anything — not even the playroom down the hall. When he could finally go out, the playroom was his favorite place.

Thomas and his parents, Valerie and Patrick Flynn
Thomas and his parents, Valerie and Patrick Flynn

He wondered why some of the toys were missing parts, and his mom, Valerie explained that there are a lot of sick kids playing with the toys, and the hospital only has so many for everyone to share.

Thomas decided it was time to make a difference. Today, the young tike collects new toys and donates them to the hospital. Through his effort, several thousands of dollars worth of toys have been donated to Boston Children’s. Read more about his medical journey and his quest to help other children.

Sharing blessings and experiences with others

When George Davies was 3 months old, Dr. James Kasser, Boston Children’s surgeon-in-chief, diagnosed him with Fibular Hemimelia, a rare genetic absence of the fibular bone. If left untreated, George’s right leg would be six inches shorter than his left.

George and his parents, Jen and Paul Davies
George and his parents, Jen and Paul Davies

George underwent a series of successful limb-lengthening operations and, today, the fully active late-teen is a freshman at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, studying biochemistry.

“We are so grateful for the multiple surgeries George received,” says Jen.  “They improved his quality of life immeasurably.”

When asked to speak with other families considering similar surgeries, the Davies quickly rose to the occasion.

“Everyone has a different story, their own set of needs and concerns and a unique journey,” Jen adds. “We are blessed to have met these wonderful families and to have been a part of their journey, even for a short while.” Read about George’s limb-lengthening operations and how the surgeries changed his life.

Learn about volunteer opportunities at Boston Children’s.