Shriners Hospitals Continue To Help Children Defy The Odds

COURTESY PHOTO

The Bethlehem Elementary School’s kindergarten class, under the direction of their teacher, Maureen Ferland, has been collecting tabs for Taylor since October 2012.

Taylor Marie was born like most other babies. A full term, healthy little girl weighing in at 7 lbs., 7 oz. The only thing that made her birth out of the ordinary was that Taylor was born with one hand. Around 6 weeks gestation, Taylor developed a blood clot in her arm which prohibited it from growing completely. Her left arm ends just below her elbow. Since her birth, she has been a patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children, where she receives prosthetics and participates in upper extremity clinics.

Shriners Hospitals for Children® is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing specialty pediatric care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs. Children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for admission and receive all care in a family-centered environment with no financial obligation to the patient or their families. Shriners Hospitals relies on the generosity of donors to deliver this mission every day.

Taylor received her first arm prosthesis at 3 months of age and instantly fell in love. She has always been able to do everything she wants or needs with just her available hand, but as most of us know some tasks are easier with two. Taylor has always been a devout wearer and user of her prosthetics and will show any who see her that they are a useful tool and not an "unnecessary cosmetic" as some believe.

In the spring of 2009, with the economy's rapid decline, the Shriners Hospital system, was faced with the grave possibility of having to close down their Springfield, Mass. facility, where Taylor receives her care, as well as five of their other hospitals. Taylor's mother, Nina Honeycutt, along with some of her close friends, set out on a mission to aid in preventing the Springfield facility's shutdown and held a walkathon with the hope of gaining support and awareness to benefit the Springfield Shriners Hospital.

Leading up to that first walkathon, the friends realized financial uncertainty was also preventing some would be supporters from being able to make monetary donations. The group began collecting aluminum can tabs which also help the hospitals and patients. The tabs are recycled as scrap and the money made in the process is then used to purchase items needed by the hospitals and patients ranging from books and games to IV pumps and X-ray machines. Tabs money can also be used for personalized adaptive equipment, or added into the transportation fund which assists families with the financial challenges they sometimes face in getting their child to the hospital. This fund also helps families with lodging so they may be nearby while their child is in the hospitals care, as well as covering med flights when a child's life hangs in the balance.

The family's first walkathon came to a successful end and other patients, families and communities nationwide spoke out and showed just how much they needed, loved and appreciated the Shriners Hospitals network. In July 2009, the Shriners decided none of the slated six would close.

Taylor is now 4-years-old and is in her sixth prosthetic arm, which she proudly displays, featuring Dora the Explorer. The Honeycutt family continues to help support the Springfield Shriners Hospital by hosting the SHrINE ON Springfield walkathon annually in Springfield, Vt., as well as continuing Tabs For Taylor, both of which continue to grow stronger and larger with each coming year. Walk participants have raised almost $8,000 for Shriners Hospitals and well over 4.5 million can tabs have been collected. The tabs are collected by individuals, schools and businesses all over New Hampshire and Vermont and beyond. They come by mail, car, freight train and even as carry-on baggage from other countries and one way or another, they make it to Taylor. The tab pile grows until she has an appointment in Springfield, at which time they are transported to the hospital and Taylor says "goodbye" to the tabs and the pile begins all over again.

The fifth annual Shrine On Springfield walkathon will be held on Saturday, June 8 at the Toonerville Trail beginning at 9:30 a.m. Anyone looking to participate can find more information and sponsor forms at www.shrineonspringfield.blogspot.com or email Nina at imninstar@yahoo.com.

The Bethlehem Elementary School's kindergarten class, under the direction of their teacher, Maureen Ferland, has been collecting tabs for Taylor since they first heard of this organization in October 2012. Ferland's class has written Taylor letters with questions and supporting words. In turn Taylor has made beaded bracelets for every student in this kindergarten class along with a thank you note. Although these kids have never met Taylor, her name is a known "friend" in the classroom.

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