About two weeks before Valentine's Day I received a Facebook message from a fellow wounded warrior family. Carlos and Rosemarie Evans had just been to San Antonio, TX and someone had shared a brilliant idea with them. They decided to share it with me and Chaz. Their friend in Texas decided that the caregivers needed something special on Valentine's Day. You see the caregivers (moms, wives, girlfriends, brothers, friends, etc) are there day in and day out. We give up everything to be there and it is exhausting. We are not looking for an award or anything special, but a thank you every once in a while just fills our hearts. So we set out to do just that.
Rosemarie told me the plan and we immediately got to work. We each went to the different organizations that we have contacts with and asked them to help us make this all possible. Then I went to the hospital administration and asked for help with a space to build our baskets, a place to store them over night, if we could pass them out and permission to do all of the above. I was ready to convince them to let us do it. But instead this is what I heard. "So let me get this straight...A Marine wife and Army wife want to make and give baskets to our wounded so they have something to give their caregivers on Valentine's Day?" I said, "Yes." It was followed with, "You don't know how much I love this idea. Absolutely you can do this email exactly what you need and it is done." Hello easy button!
Then the non-profits and friends just lined up to help! Together Rosemarie and I brought The Semper Fi Fund, Operation Ward 57, Operation Second Chance, Help Our Military Heroes, Freedom Petals, Maryland chapter Gold Star mothers, Aleethia Foundation, the Yellow Ribbon Fund, plus individuals like Donna, Susan, Karyn, Marisa, Keita, Cindy, Ed and Breck. Also I received some awesome Valentines from school children and Sunday School classes. Then I recruited my friends Mary, Margaret, Heather, Eliza, Siobhan, Emily and Laura to help us assemble the baskets on Monday the 13th. Of course we made our little cuties help out too. Which they were thrilled to do. Here's what our Monday looked like!!
So you can see we had a ton of fun and look what we accomplished together!! Can you say awesome?! We met at 10 and got done in time for lunch. Then we went and rested for the next day. We left feeling really awesome about what we had just accomplished.
Tuesday we met at 10 again and loaded up the carts and headed for the 4th floor. We had our own Navy escorts so we'd know exactly where to go. For those of us who have been on the outpatient side for so long it was a wow moment. For me I remember being in the hospital with Chaz. I remember being so tired and so worried about everything. As we walked we shared our stories of where we were and giggled about how bendy straws were a highly coveted item in the hospital. One by one we went room to room and shared our baskets with the warriors so they could share them with the caregivers. Many rooms were empty, but the Navy staff had written down who had how many caregivers for us. So the rooms that needed one got one, the rooms that needed two got two and we left a card on each basket that read "For your caregiver" on the envelope. So there were some nice surprises when the families returned.
The highlight for most of us came from these two rooms. One room had a solider from 10th mountain and his mom. We told him how we know how much they appreciate their caregiver, but its kind of hard to shop so we did it for you. That soldier was so thankful. When we told him who we were there was this instant bonding moment where you could feel the connection between us all. They were so thankful and sweet.
The second room that stood out had a warrior (I don't remember which branch) and his wife. You could see she was so tired and worn out. When we told her who we were, I thought she was going to cry. We took extra time with her. We reassured her we know what it's like to sit in those chairs all day and sleep in that pull out thing. I stayed in there with some others and we gave her some extra time. She needed to be reassured that she wasn't alone on this road. We left our cell numbers and emails for her to get in touch with us. But it was this look on her face of finally someone knows, that has resonated with me.I know we made their day special and that was better than any gift or any amount of money you could ever give me.
We finished the 4th floor then went to the 7th floor and ICU. Since we had baskets left we took them over to the outpatient building and began passing them out over there. There were several guys who forgot it was Valentine's Day and now they had something to give.
I am so honored Rosemarie and Carlos thought of me and asked me to help. Together we made one heck of a team. I hope this is one of many great ideas to come together. The Navy and Army were thrilled with what we did. I assume the Marines are too, but we're not Marines so I didn't hear from that side. One Navy staff member asked how did you gals do all this. I responded quickly with, "Because we kept you out of it until we had all of it together." He laughed and agreed, then said, "Well you ladies have done an amazing thing here and I hope you do it again." We all know the more hands you have in the pot, sometimes those hands have a tendency to ruin it.
I want to thank Rosemarie for sharing her idea, my friends for helping us pay it forward, the non-profits and individuals who donated goodies to the basket and the staff of WFCC at the hospital for making everything so perfectly easy. It takes team work to make the dream work. We might not have made dreams come true, but we sure as heck made many days a lot brighter!!!