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Howard County Students Support GBMC Kids

June 17, 2019
Heading into surgery can be a scary expedition for a child. GBMC is lucky to have Child Life Specialists available to walk children through this process, especially with a little help from some local kids providing special bags with toys to promote alternate focus.

The fifth-grade students at Ilchester Elementary School in Howard County put together pre-surgery bags for GBMC and Howard County General Hospital as part of the school-wide, pay-it-forward initiative, Raise Craze. This selfless act for kids they will never meet, was a way administrators and teachers thought to introduce all students to the act of giving back.

"We at Ilchester think it's important – and I think the community would agree with me – they want to give back and they think it's important for kids to understand the importance of doing that," John Vandermer, fifth-grade teacher, said. "I think I can speak for the parents in saying that too. It's a very generous community."

John, who has been at Ilchester for 20 years, got together with the other three fifth-grade teachers to brainstorm and pre-purchase supplies, such as puzzles, crayons, pads of paper and handheld games for their students to stuff into the bags via an assembly line in the hallway. But before stuffing, students decorated the bags to make them more colorful and happy, and also included encouraging notes with uplifting messages. In March, John delivered about 50 bags each to GBMC and Howard County General.

"The bags were well received," Cristin Bailey, clinical manager for the Pediatric ED and Inpatient Units at GBMC, said. "We used them for Emergency Department patients, inpatients, for siblings waiting with patients and patients awaiting the OR. The bags were colorful and much appreciated. It was so kind of them to think of us."

The students weren't able to make the deliveries with John, but when he returned to school, he made a point to visit each of the four fifth-grade classrooms to tell them about the deliveries. John wanted to make sure each student felt the weight of their actions, even if they couldn't be there to witness it.

"It's important for kids to connect with that kind of stuff," John said. "I really think the kids, because I made a point to let the classes know, they were excited. It's good for them to see and hear the reaction."

For John, the act of giving back is a lesson that extends beyond the classroom, but is just as vital as traditional "textbook" education.

"We talk about college and career-readiness," he said, "but I think most people get caught up in that instead of making sure their kids are happy and a good person, a good citizen, a good role model for other kids. I'm not saying that's a Howard County or an Ilchester thing, I think that's a thing we should all look at as an important thing."
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