Last week we met up at The Children's Hospital to deliver blankets again! It is such a rewarding experience to be part of something much bigger than ourselves. Every time we go to this hospital, it feels like we are returning home again. There is such a feeling of reverence and gratitude and love that overflows with every breath you take.
Many people are interested in what we are doing. As you can imagine, our families, plus kids, plus bags and bags of blankets...it tends to create some commotion. I had one lovely lady come up to me and ask me what I was involved in, as she pulled her two daughters in a wagon, with one daughter having a hospital nightgown on, and the other simply spending time with her sister. I told them our short story, of how we and two other families had babies born with congenital heart defects, and after spending a lot of time in the hospital, where we witnessed so much love and service, that we wanted to give back as well. Thus, every year, on our boys' birthdays, we donate all the blankets we've gathered through the year, to all the patients at the hospital.
The mother beamed up at me, and with a smile said to her daughter "Maybe you'll get a blanket tonight, sweetie!" The young patient gave a little whoop for joy, then settled back down in the wagon with her sister, as they continued their field trip around the hospital.
I am so serious when I say that every blanket makes a difference. I have no idea what this young girl was going through, but they were all so happy to receive a simple blanket. A blanket to snuggle with when she is alone in her hospital room. A blanket to keep her warm at night when the chill from the windows breaks through. A blanket to squeeze tight against her chest when she's being brave and undergoing testing. A blanket to let her know that people care about her. Or, unfortunately sometimes it's a blanket to take home as a reminder of a child's life.
That last reminder, is what our friend Tabitha holds dear. This next picture was taken last year, as our husbands donated blankets to the CPCU. There, they met Tabitha, who was awaiting her son's open heart surgery that was to happen in a few days. They had already been in the hospital for a few weeks (if I remember correctly) and Tabitha's family was still in New Mexico.
We got to know Tabitha and learned about her sweet baby Logan. It wasn't more than a week after our blanket drive, when we heard that Logan did not survive the surgery. Our hearts went out to Tabitha and her family. What a heartbreaking experience to forever change her family, and in a much smaller way, our families as well.
This year, our blanket drive was in honor of Logan. Tabitha worked hard to collect blankets as well, and together we donated 324 blankets. The number was significantly lower than last year, but we succeeded in our original goal, which was to give every single patient a blanket.
It was also a fun time for the kids to be together again. We try to get together about every six months, and so it's frequent enough where they all remember each other, and the friendships are starting to develop between our older kids. The boys don't really know what's going on, but they tolerate each other just fine. Teresa and I teased that getting a picture every year, with the wagon, was going to be fun to compare how they grow. When they are teenagers, they won't quite fit in the wagon anymore, and by that time, they'll be bench pressing them. So funny to imagine...and I hope it comes true. I want these boys to be the best of friends, and have each other in their life forever.
After we took pictures of all the blankets, we loaded them up in wagons again and delivered them to the volunteer office, where the staff is always eager to get donations (of any kind). From there, they will be washed and then delivered to the patients throughout the hospital. Here is Kennedy, helping to gather blankets.
While the moms are delivering blankets to the CICU, the kids entertained themselves by making a wagon train, and touring the hospital. They had a great time. Kolby even managed to find a hideout that kept him in the 'missing' status for a while. I wasn't too worried, as I know how Kolby can be, but when he 'got lost again' a few hours later, and had Derek with him (Julie's son), things were stressful for a bit. We were glad to finally discover their hideaway (a little room that had video games in it) and made sure they knew that information on whereabouts was a necessity in such a public place.
We took our wagonload of reserved blankets and made our journey to the 3rd floor, where the Cardiac ICU was. It's always emotional for us. We each have intense memories of our time there. The sights; the smells; the lighting...everything triggers our emotions.
One grandmother was with her newborn granddaughter. It reminded me of when my mom came to visit Kimble. She was delighted to pick out a blanket for her grandbaby, and thanked us many times over. I don't know about the other moms, but accepting thanks doesn't seem right. I'm just the middle man, so to say. I help collect these blankets, but it is all of you, and all of our friends, and all of our church congregations that give us the blankets. So I extend the thanks to all of you. Thank you for supporting me in this amazing project. It is so meaningful to me.
After donating the blankets, and letting the husbands have a turn talking to people in the CICU (more to come on that in the next post) we let the boys have cupcakes, to celebrate their birthdays. We love having them together again!
We decided to let the dads show off their boys, and their matching shirts. My sister Sharon sent me the vinyl, and I ironed it on their shirts. The shirts had cute little robots on the front (with big hearts across their chest)...
...and on the backs of the shirts were their names, with the number 2. It's not easy to get three toddler boys to sit still and show off their shirts!
They each got to wear some fun neckties as well. I sure do love these boys!
I'm going to make a bigger effort to get more blankets to donate this next year. I already have a few that were donated a bit too late, to start next year's tally. If you would like to donate a blanket, please contact me. Such a simple service has a chance to influence a child for the rest of their life.