The Catalyst

A decade of caring: MUSC Angel Tree and Parade


By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

Timmy Moyer, 7, center, served as marshall of the 2013 MUSC Angel Tree Parade which was held Dec. 6 around MUSC’s campus. Moyer is a bone marrow transplant patient. photos by Sarah Pack, Public Relations

Hundreds of MUSC employees and patients — many clad in reindeer ears, Christmas sweaters and Santa hats along with volunteers and guests from the community — lined sidewalks and packed into the Horseshoe eagerly awaiting the arrival of the 10th annual Angel Tree Christmas parade.

As the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums, dressed in their signature blue and gold tartan kilts, emerged from the front of Storm Eye Institute, the crowd showed their heartfelt appreciation with smiles, cheers, and enthusiastic applause.

The theme of this year’s event, Superheroes, honors the courage and strength shown by patients every day at the MUSC Children’s Hospital.

As Captain America stood valiantly atop the superhero float, doctors and nurses joined real-life hero, 12-year-old Kim Grant, a leukemia patient in the Children’s Hospital, for the exciting ride through the MUSC campus.

Her doctor, Michelle Hudspeth, M.D., director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, said “We were happy to accompany Kim on the float. Seeing her smile was the most magical part of the day.”

A pageant of festively-lit golf carts pulling trailers of toys, and gaily-decorated pickup trucks weighed down with presents and bikes, all proceeded down Ashley Avenue bound for the Horseshoe. An elf on a bike kept time with the Coastal Belle Singers, and MUSC public safety officer Corey Cox dressed like a toy soldier, delighted the crowd from high atop stilts, while he danced and performed acrobatics from his wobbly perch.

The crowd went wild over Burke High School’s High Steppin’ Band, whose musicians played their hearts out for the grateful spectators, and the audience was equally thrilled to hear the cadences chanted by West Ashley High School Junior Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, who marched and carried their banner in the parade.

West Ashley High School’s NJROTC Master Chief Tim Strickland said, “This is the parade the kids enjoy the most and they look forward to it all year. They love bringing a smile to everyone’s faces and it means so much to each and every one of them. It is truly what the season is all about.”

Finally the last vehicle arrived, carrying the day’s three most anxiously awaited guests: Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Timmy Moyer, the parade’s marshal.

The Superheroes theme was chosen as a tribute to 7-year-old Timmy for the bravery he displayed during his stay at MUSC last year while undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Timmy’s mom, Sharon Moyer, was his donor, as she had been labeled a perfect match. Hudspeth, who is also Timmy’s doctor, said it is extremely rare for a parent to be a bone marrow match — in fact, less than 1 percent of parents qualify. Timmy and his family were on the “good side” of the 1 percent.

Hudspeth said, “Timmy had been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in the fall of 2011 at the age of 5. He was diagnosed with the most difficult type of AML to cure. Timmy was referred here for a bone marrow transplant and did very well during transplant, but later developed severe complications.”

“Timmy and his family persevered through many though times, but we are thrilled to say he is doing terrifically.  He is back to playing soccer and focusing on school work. Timmy is a great example of how MUSC pediatric blood and marrow transplantation works with patients all over the state and beyond to truly defy the odds,” Hudspeth said.

According to Hudspeth, Timmy’s family recently moved to North Carolina due to his father’s job but continue to do all of their follow up care here at MUSC. His mom says she can’t imagine being anywhere else.

As Timmy’s car and the procession of vehicles circled through the Horseshoe, Santa and his many elves unloaded boxes, bikes, and bags of presents as fast as they could while Elvis Presley Christmas carols accompanied their efforts.

Even the youngest parade watchers joined in the spirit Dec. 6.

Relaxing in a wheelchair on the grounds in front of the hospital, Rick Osment, a patient from the Transitional Care Unit on 2East, enjoyed a picnic lunch with family and friends. “What MUSC is doing here is absolutely amazing,” he said. “The parade in and of itself is truly a gift. I imagine the staff from 2-TCU are involved in this as they are just wonderful.”

A Burke High School Steppin’ Band student keeps the rhythm.

Skipping through the crowd, decked out in full clown costume regalia , “Dr. Flutterby,” University Communication’s Lori Solado, visited bystanders, handing everyone a smiley sticker. “I love brightening people’s days and making them smile,” she said. “I love this parade. This is joy. Pure joy.”

By noon, it was nearly 80 degrees and the Burke High Steppin’ Band stopped for a cold drink before heading back to school. Standing in front of the Colbert Library, people gathered around to thank them for their performances: employees, patients, and kids surrounded the band like a fan club. The personal pride the musicians felt after a terrific performance was evident.

Craig Harris, a sergeant in the Mount Pleasant Police Department and volunteer percussion director, said, “The fact this parade is about kids doing for other kids makes it that much more special. They want to do something for the children who need encouragement. For kids to be giving their own time for others – now that’s amazing. They practice all summer long, out in the heat. They work so hard after school every day to prepare. What they do comes from the heart.”

Harris’ heart is in the right place too. He played in the same band when he was a student at Burke. He gives back because of what was done for him when he was the age of the musicians he now mentors.

“These are good, good kids,” Harris  said. “There is a spirit placed on them and they have inner and outer charisma. They love to perform for the community. These kids have amazing appreciation for everything they get to do. Having this type of influence in their lives is priceless.”
Across the Horseshoe from the band, Santa and Mrs. Claus held court, posing for pictures with children, adults and elves alike. Children lined up to share detailed Christmas wishes and adults tried to convince the Clauses they should not be on the naughty list.

As the parade and the festivities wound down, the Salvation Army was on hand to collect the thousands of contributions. The long-respected organization partners with MUSC every year to ensure the children of the Lowcountry have gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

Through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, new toys, clothes and bikes are donated for children of families who have great financial need. Angel Trees are decorated with paper angel tags that include the first name, age and gender of a child who may not receive any presents for Christmas were it not for MUSC and this program. The adage it is better to give than to receive is never truer than on this day.

“When we found out the band from Burke and the NJROTC from West Ashley High School were giving up their lunches to perform for our parade, we knew we had to do something,” said Liz Nista, Blood Marrow Transplant Program Quality Coordinator and parade organizer. “Sodexo, the international food service company that runs the cafeterias on MUSC campus, offered to supply lunch and drinks so the kids didn’t have to go without.”

The MUSC Angel Tree Program is in its 10th year. Every year, MUSC employees prove how sincerely generous they are; it is not unusual for more than 1,500 Angels and nearly 5,000 families to be helped.

“Every day MUSC employees show patients that they care, that we’re here for them and that we’re all in this together. Once a year during the holidays, MUSC employees show the entire Lowcountry just how much they really care. Thank you to the entire MUSC family of employees for supporting the Angel Tree this year and making sure that these children wake up to a Christmas morning of wonder and love,” said Nista.

December 12, 2013
 
 
 

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