John Kelly
John Kelly
Columnist

Special toy drives boost spirits at Children’s National. Plus: Alexandrians ponder cricket.

The last time he had his throat operated on, 6-year-old Nicholas Kidwell was pretty much fed up. The Hyattsville first-grader has cysts growing on his vocal cords that must be removed surgically every three months or so until after puberty.

In October, at Nicholas’s last operation — his fourth — the surgical team at Children’s National saw that he was getting agitated. From somewhere, a floppy, stuffed brown dog was produced.

“It helped him to stay calm,” said his mom, Stephanie Kidwell.

Little acts like that make Children’s National a less-scary place, and it so impressed Nicholas’s 8-year-old brother, Ryan, that he had an idea: When the second grade at Hyattsville Elementary School was casting around for something to raise money for, Ryan suggested Children’s National.

“The second-grade teachers decided they wanted to do a project that integrated art, social studies and math as well as doing some community service,” said Principal Julia Burton.

Teachers Cheryl Ramsey, Pamela Vincent, Cicili Harrison and Sharon Davis had their students make papier-mâchépiggy banks. The money that fills them will go to Children’s to buy stuffed animals.

The piggy bank Ryan made was the centerpiece at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, where, like everyone else’s, it was getting fatter.

Another area student is giving back to Children’s National and encouraging others to follow his lead.

This year, Eric Lansinger of Damascus learned he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He explained: “Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the blood and lymph node system. The day I was diagnosed I went to see a doctor, and he told me, if you’re going to get a cancer, Hodgkin’s is the one you want to get, just because of the high success rate.”

Eric received chemotherapy at Children’s, experiencing all that entails: the nausea, the fatigue, the hair loss. While doctors haven’t officially uttered the R-word — remission — yet, he seems to be clear of the cancer.

“I saw little kids in Children’s Hospital, and I didn’t have it as bad as most of those kids did,” Eric said. He noticed that on particularly challenging days, the young oncology patients would get to pick out a small toy, like a little car or a stuffed animal.

“I just felt like doing something nice for little kids down there,” said Eric, 15.

And so he’s organized a toy drive at Damascus High School, where he’s a freshman. Between now and Dec. 19, you can drop off toys (and hats, to keep hairless heads warm) from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at the school, 25921 Ridge Rd. in Damascus.

Your turn to help

I hope you’re inspired by the generosity of these young people. What I need now is money. It’s not for me, of course. It’s for the uncompensated care fund at Children’s National. That’s what I raise money for every year, and it’s how Children’s is able to treat kids who don’t have sufficient health insurance.

In other words, whether you give $1,000 or $100, the money will be used to help poor, sick children.

To make a tax-deductible gift, visit childrensnational.org/
washingtonpost
or send a check (payable to “Children’s National”) to Washington Post Giving Campaign, c/o Children’s Hospital Foundation, 801 Roeder Rd., Suite 650, Silver Spring, Md. 20910. Our deadline is Jan. 10.

Bill and Joanne Conway, through their Bedford Falls Foundation, have generously offered to match all gifts to The Washington Post Campaign for Children’s National. All donations, up to a total of $150,000, made by Dec. 31 will be matched dollar for dollar.

Your gift today can make a difference in the life of a child.

Sticky wickets

On Tuesday evening, the mayor of Alexandria — a city invaded by the British in 1814 but spared destruction after handing over ships and supplies — officially challenged our former enemy to symbolic battle to commemorate the War of 1812’s bicentennial.

During the city council meeting, Mayor William D. Euille invited staffers from the British Embassy to compete against Alexandrians in August in three feats of strength and skill: a tug of war, a sailing competition and a cricket match.

It was that last one that worried some on the council.

“We need to start practicing cricket now,” said council member Redella S. “Del” Pepper.

Later, a few members of the Alexandria Historical Society gathered over beers in the Union Street Public House, excitedly discussing the planned anniversary events. The tug-of-war would be simple enough. And surely they could find some sail boats to race on the Potomac. But cricket, that languid game of British summers?

“We need a cricket team manager,” said Gretchen Bulova, director of the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

Is there, she wondered, a Pakistani or Indian community in Alexandria that could be mobilized?

The enemy itself was present, in the form of Cmdr. John “Ned” Kelly, the embassy’s assistant naval attache and the person who had accepted the ceremonial challenge. He offered no cricket tips. Then he mentioned that he once taught competitive sailing for the Royal Navy. Uh-oh.

The good people of Alexandria had better spend the next eight months in training, lest the British beat us again.

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

 
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