‘Loved, special, vital’: Community showers sick kids with Valentine’s Day gifts

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There was a Valentine’s Day weekend surprise for the children inside Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Friday.

You can imagine the smiles if the children inside the hospital on Michigan Street in Grand Rapids could have seen a van full of balloons and toys pull up, park and start unloading.

“(We want to) make them know that they are loved and they are special and they are so vital to our community,” Audrey Wendt, a Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital nurse, said.

The joy and smiles are brought to you by the Facebook group WEcareGR. Friday’s effort was dubbed “Project Be My Valentine.”

“We started it just to reach some kids in the oncology unit and a lot of people showed interest,” Wendt said.

There was so much interest, in fact, that all the kids in the hospital will be getting Valentine’s gifts. In all, 250 balloons and 300 presents worth some $8,000 were donated.

Who are the generous souls behind WEcareGR? They are your neighbors, your co-workers and anyone who wants to show and share love.

“It feels like kind of a dark time right now with COVID and everything else going on, but it gives us more of an opportunity to help people and to shine our light in our world. It’s really great,” Wendt said.

WEcareGR works fast. Wendt put the “Project Be My Valentine” call out on Facebook only seven days before the delivery was made.

“All these people are just people who care about each other, that’s what’s really beautiful,” Wendt said.

COVID-19 restrictions mean the children’s hospital is not open to visitors, but you don’t need a peek inside to imagine how many smiles were lighting up the halls.

“That’s all we want to do,” Wendt said.

WEcareGR is working on another project called Make A Friend, Save a Life, matching pen pals with people in nursing homes. Wendt also previously organized a large donation of school supplies to a Grand Rapids elementary school.

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