Our team comes together, every December, ready to carry on “The Stocking Project” with humbleness of heart. It is as if we step onto a path of miracles otherwise missed. What began as a cancer survivor’s desire to ease the sadness of being hospitalized at Christmastime has become her legacy. Surely, Taira Baughman had no idea she was inspiring a compassionate lasting movement.
This marks our 7th season of delivering stockings to patients at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in Florida. From California to Alabama and in between, hundreds of country music fans are connected through the project, visiting hospitals and infusion centers, with countless stockings in-hand and hearts overflowing with love.
People who have fought and people still fighting cancer, young and old (from 2 to 92), caregivers (present and past), nurses, musicians, photographer, and Santa & Mrs. Claus – they all volunteer with us in this legacy of hope. My church family at The Anchor joined the cause again too, donating stockings full of delightful gifts.
What compels people to do these extraordinary acts of kindness?
Martina McBride’s charity group Team Music is Love is an exemplary wind beneath our wings. Year-round, day after day, initiatives are brought to fruition with Team Martina volunteers, doing good through the power of music. Likewise, our compelling force is best seen through the volunteers who make the Stocking Project possible, and the patients whose lives they touch. It is as if we step onto a path of miracles otherwise missed.
From the nurses ….
Thanks again for all you do! Patients are still talking about the experience. One of the new patients said that she will go to the website enclosed in their stockings and give great feedback. Every patient was so glad to see you guys and have their spirits lifted.
Another patient was so thrilled with Santa’s visit that she has to call her Mom and let her know. She grew up with a “Santa tradition” that even as an adult would not let it go. Neat stories of her childhood experience with Santa that she’s now passing the tradition to her children. Very ecstatic to have seen Santa!
All positive feedback from each one of them. We are still sharing your left over stockings to the newly admitted patients.
Then, we asked our volunteers, “Who stood out to you? What touched you the most?
The WWII veteran who is writing a book about his personal story – his ship was torpedoed and he was in the water awaiting a rescue. He is 92 years old. We told him we want to read his book when it is finished.
The blind man who was so overwhelmed and happy. He said, “I can’t see you, but I can hear you. Sing another. You have made my day.”
The man who shared his stories, poetry, and wit. The tears in his eyes brought on by memory of glory days past and knowledge of the short time ahead were matched by some of our own. I only hope he knows how truly valuable he is and how grateful we are for his service and sacrifice. What an honor it was to have the opportunity to give something back to him.
The one who REALLY stood out to me was the man who was so emotional and happy that we sang for him. I just wanted to take him home.
I noticed what an awesome job Santa does. Everyone opens up when they see St. Nick, old and young alike. Most patients wanted to hold his hand and many sang along. It really struck me how a person changes when they put on the persona of someone else … when Santa walked into those rooms, his chest puffed out and he had a huge grin and a confident air. The patients are relaxed and comfortable talking to him. Sometimes, it seems they’re confiding in him, sharing their fears and pain, as they would with a priest or a pastor.
The nurses who showed us around – you could see the compassion in their faces. To think about how they do this day in and day out. Every person who came to give their time and their love. It all swelled my heart.
I was touched when one of the nurses came out of a room crying. I had to give her a hug and thank her for what she does every day. And, the patient who is a singer in a barbershop quartet; he thanked us for coming to sing to him! There are not many events where you can laugh, cry, sing, smile, share, care, console, and be the present with your presence, but this is one of them. I feel honored to be part of it.
We delivered stockings to the oncology unit today. What a blessing. The very biggest blessing however was God surprising me in a huge way. The patient in the very first room was a name I knew, but a person I had never met. I have been praying for this person by name for a very long time. What a thrill to meet him and to share that I had been praying for him. Then, I had another unexpected surprise. The musician was Daniel, who I taught many years ago. “Who would have thought all those years ago we would be singing together on the oncology floor of the hospital?” Daniel told me.
What compels us to spend time visiting oncology patients at Christmas? The Stocking Project does. It is an opportunity, a legacy of love, and a chance to step onto a path of miracles that would otherwise be missed.
Until we meet again ….