Tuthill and Team Rubicon visited Hines Veterans Administration Hospital with gift bags on Dec. 15. Earlier that the week, Tuthill Burr Ridge helped pack 150 bags with blankets, hats and other gifts for the veterans. On Friday, a crew went to hand deliver the bags to veterans who reside in the hospital or were temporarily receiving services for an illness.
About 20 volunteers divvied up sections of the hospital and went knocking on doors to chat with the veterans and deliver the gifts.
Nedhi Panse of Tuthill said the conversations she shared were what truly held meaning for her. The gifts were a nice gesture, but “the fact that we spent talking to them for those few minutes mattered the most.” As she and a few others were leaving a veteran’s room, she noticed the veteran started to cry. She stayed back to give him company and support.
The volunteers did what they could to make the best of each situation. Kathy Dzaibala and Danton Jany entered a room where a man was silently sitting.
“Hello, sir. What is your name?”
“I don’t remember,” the man replied. A silent sadness came over the room.
“Today, you can be named anything you’d like? What will it be?”
“Charlie Brown!” the man said with a smile, and without hesitation, his sense of humor shining through.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” The volunteers introduced themselves, making up their own names as well to play along.
Despite the challenges the veterans were facing, overwhelmingly their spirits were positive and elevated.
“One of the veterans came in with a broken back and found out that he had terminal cancer,” Chad Gabriel of Tuthill said. Still, he smiled throughout the visit and dreamed big. He talked about wanting a wheel chair ramp in his front yard and backyard so he could go on his deck for cold beers.
“I was so inspired by the endless smiles and upbeat attitudes of the men despite one gentleman having lost a leg and another who has endured eight surgeries and has been in the hospital for three years!” Annette Cox of Tuthill added.
Herb Magda, a member of Team Rubicon, a veteran-based disaster relief non-profit, chatted with a man named Jeff who told him his story.
"I got diabetes and they had to cut both my legs off three months ago,” Jeff said. Then a heart issue resulted in a bypass surgery. Herb complimented Jeff on his upbeat attitude how well he looked given the circumstances. Jeff replied, “Thank you. God wanted me to meet you, and I needed to have the procedures done to live my life and meet you!”
For many of the volunteers, gratitude came to top of mind.
“I am thankful each day for the blessings I have been given. This reminded even the smallest gesture of kindness is appreciated,” Annette said.
Hines VA Hospital was extremely grateful for Tuthill’s time and the gifts as well. “We appreciate Tuthill’s continued generosity and support,” Silvestre Cahue, a coordinator for Hines said.
“Every veteran I spoke with was genuinely gracious and thankful for the visit even though it was I who was honored to be in their presence,” Rose Meade said. “These men and woman have sacrificed a lot.”