Nancy Lee and Operation Welcome Home Maryland

I don't know where the patriotic gene comes from, but I sure do have it, because I love supporting the men and women of our military.   I was ecstatic when Chad and I stumbled upon the group Operation Welcome Home MarylandThrough their organization we found a way to show support for our military that doesn't cost a dime - while making our hearts feel full.  We often feel guilty knowing that we participate, not just for those who serve, but for ourselves.  And it's not just Chad and I who feel that way.  It shows on the faces of all the volunteers, even the school aged students who come to get signed off on their community service credit. 

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is one of about six airports where the military return to American soil from overseas.  Two times a week, sometimes more, staff from Operation Welcome Home Maryland meet other volunteers like myself at the International terminal to welcome soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and Coast Guard service members who are returning from overseas.  Along with the hearty welcome, troops receive goodie bags of snacks and water, and assistance, if needed, to the next gate to board a connecting flight. 

Some volunteers show up dressed in red, white and blue, others wave flags or display homemade signs.  Some arrive early to take part in decorating the lobby or to hand out "goodie bags".  One thing is certain, when the International Arrival terminal door opens and the troops start pouring through, everyone finds themselves cheering, clapping and shouting "welcome home!"  On realizing that the crowd is waiting for all of them, soldiers may appear surprised at first, but you can see the appreciation and gratitude in their eyes. 

The first time Chad and I participated, we were immediately swept into handing out goodie bags, giving us an opportunity to be up front, shaking the hand of every soldier.  We were hooked!  Since then, we have witnessed some truly memorable moments:  a soldier kissing the ground, thankful he's back on American soil after a long deployment; a father seeing his newborn son for the first time; the proud parents of a young soldier, tears streaming down their faces, thankful that their boy has made it back home; a young lady proudly holding her sign, waiting anxiously for her fiance to return home.  As you can imagine, it can be pretty emotional, and yes, I've cried a time or two. 

Chad and I encourage everyone to check out www.operationwelcomehomemd.org.  If you can't get to the airport, there are other ways to support the troops.  Operation Welcome Home Maryland accepts donations of cash, store bought pre-packaged single serving snacks such as cookies, crackers, granola bars, candy, and bottled water.  You can even donate your airline miles!  The website also offers many links to other groups who provide support to the military. 

If you're planning a trip to the airport, be sure to call the hotline at 410-630-1555 for a recorded message on the day you'd like to attend.  Some flights get delayed or cancelled, and others could pop up unexpectedly.  The hotline has updated information, will tell you the best time to arrive and provides parking information.

Meet us at the airport and help give these heroes the welcome home they deserve!

 

Abi Ostrander and Virtual Environments

I have always played video games and even majored in game design in college. I also enjoy creating 3D and 2D art, so when my professor was looking for volunteers to help launch his game lab I was more than happy to help. 

It started as an independent study over the summer where we worked with local residents near a cultural site in Nepal, which had been destroyed by the 2015 earthquake, to recreate buildings that had stood for hundreds of years. My professor then put our work into a virtual reality system called C.A.V.E, computer assisted virtual environment. This allowed users to move through the recreation of this cultural site and interact with different structures to learn about the history of the area. The goal of the project was to try and preserve the history and importance of these structures that are now lost.

After completing this project, our attention switched to preserving historic sites closer to home. We started with the Inner Harbor and the historic buildings surrounding it, such as the Domino Sugar Factory. As the project progressed we began to include Maryland’s rich history of ships and ship building, with the intention of providing this application for K-12 student education. As a game lab assistant I worked hard to promote the importance of digital preservation and education; I even presented our work at key events such as the Experimental Learning Showcase at the University of Baltimore.

Abi Ostrander, Patient Services Representative

NOTE: Abi's group efforts were featured in an article this summer in The Baltimore Sun.  You can click here to read it.

Toni Robinson and the Life and Breath Foundation

Toni and husband Scott.

As a Practice Liaison with Dankmeyer, Toni Robinson enjoys helping others live the fullest lives they can through using the right prosthetics and orthotics.  And, through her work with the Life and Breath Foundation, she helps many others who live with sarcoidosis, a complex inflammatory disease that commonly affects the lungs and lymph nodes, but can also attack the brain, eyes, kidneys and more. 

Toni was diagnosed with sarcoidosis early in the 2000s, and while her sarcoid symptoms have been in remission since 2007, she still works diligently to educate others about the disease, and offer ways to find the right treatment.  For example, Toni recently appeared on the cover of Baltimore Style magazine, and informed its readers about Life and Breath’s Flip Flop Festivus, an annual gala happening at the Four Seasons in Baltimore on Friday, September 15th.

Through her dedication to Life and Breath, Toni continues to help others live their best lives, as well as living hers.  To learn more about Life and breath, and to purchase tickets to Flip Flop Festivus, click here.

Through her dedication to Life and Breath, Toni continues to help others live their best lives, as well as living hers.  To learn more about Life and breath, and to purchase tickets to Flip Flop Festivus, click here.

 

Art Ross and the Kinetic Sculpture Race

Art Ross, Fabrication Technician, contributes this story.

On the first Saturday of May for the past 19 years, a bit of insanity has descended on the city of Baltimore in the form of the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Kinetic Sculptures are amphibious, human powered works of art custom built for the race. Each May, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) hosts the East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race Championship on the shore of Baltimore’s Harbor in central Maryland.  The eight-hour race covers 14 miles—mostly on pavement, but also including a trip into the Chesapeake Bay and through mud and sand.

For the last six years I have had the fun of working as a volunteer at this event. I have concentrated my efforts into the group known as the “flock of chickens”. The task of this group is to engage the crowd that is viewing the race and collect votes for the most popular sculpture. Each year the race has a theme that isn’t announced until several weeks before the event. One year the first Saturday of May happened to be on the 5th so that year the theme was Cinco de Mayo.  Last year it was Myths and Monsters and this year the theme was Food - coinciding with an exhibit at the Museum. Each year it is a bit of a race to revise or rebuild my chicken costume to match the theme.  Here I am, in costume as a Cinco de Mayo chicken, FrankenChicken, and a Chicken Sandwich.

I have added my own touch to the assigned task. In addition to collecting votes, I hand out Dum Dum brand suckers. I give them out to the kids of course, but I make an effort to give them to adults as well. The delight on the face of a “grandmother” who is always giving but never expecting to be offered a treat is especially fun. Last year I gave out about 600 of these treats. 

It’s amazing how many social “norms” you can break when you are dressed in a silly costume, not the least of which is taking candy from a stranger. 

To see the sculptures or for more information see: http://www.kineticbaltimore.com/

Kristin Boswell and Her Cause for Paws

Kristin with her Beagles, Peyton and Minnie.

Growing up I was fortunate to be the proud owner of all sorts of pets - dogs, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, fish, every box turtle I could find to bring home, even a rabbit at one time.  So, it’s really no surprise how much of a bleeding heart I have when it comes to four legged (sometimes even three legged) creatures.  Every animal, no matter how big or small, deserves a great home.  For all these reasons, at the end of a fulfilling week of enriching the lives of Dankmeyer patients, it’s off to help those who are unable to help themselves.  To find homes for those who have no means to find their own home.  To love those who might not feel loved. 

Kristin with a family member's rescue dogs.

Many of my weekend days throughout the year are spent at fundraising walks and events to support homeless animals and shelter adoption.  Being able to promote awareness and simply advocating for animals provides me with the opportunity to enrich even more lives throughout many different communities.  These annual fundraising events are about saving lives, both human and furry.

Most recently, my husband and I, along with Dankmeyer’s resident 3D dog Digit, participated in the MuttNation March in Nashville, TN to support the MuttNation Foundation and their efforts to raise awareness for the countless shelter pets who are desperate to find their forever home.  Over 1,000 people participated in the inaugural MuttNation March, raising well over $15,000 for homeless animals.  Sixty shelter dogs were also adopted out over the course of four days!  This even made Digit’s tail wag!

There really are no words to describe the feeling you get when participating in events to promote awareness of homeless and abused animals and helping them find their forever home.  Each event has not only allowed me to give back to the community, but has enriched my life as well.    

(You can read about Digit's trip with Kristin and Richard by clicking here.)   

Coach Courtney and Lacrosse

Our first contributor is Courtney Booth, Patient Services Coordinator.  Five days a week you can find Courtney hidden behind the high cubicle walls of Dankmeyer’s Linthicum office, working diligently to provide the best customer care possible.  When she is not busy attending to patients on the phone, working with insurance companies, or sorting through prosthetic and orthotic coding during the day, you can find her running around with 3rd and 4th graders on the lacrosse field.  Now that her daughter is old enough, Courtney can share her longtime passion with 9-year old Grace. 

Courtney started playing lacrosse at the age of eight in Annapolis and was immediately hooked on the sport.  Holding a lacrosse stick came naturally to her and she continued to play for many years.  Now, as an adult, she has gotten back into the game - not running up and down the field chasing the ball, but from the sidelines as a coach!  Here is a little bit about Coach Courtney and her lacrosse team Storm. 

‘I started coaching my daughter’s Sticklettes team last year.  This is the first level of lacrosse for 5-7 year old girls.  Coaching was something I had always considered but never really took the leap.  When the lacrosse organization came up short and needed coaches, I was asked to volunteer.  Of course, I couldn’t turn down the smiles and pleas from my 8-year daughter and decided to try my hand as Coach Courtney.    Now in my second year of coaching, moving up to the Peewee level as my daughter continues to progress, I have found a new way to love lacrosse all over again.  We practice two days a week and play games against other teams all across Anne Arundel County.  Coaching has been an excellent way to relieve stress, clear the mind, and have some fun.  It has also been a perfect way to work in exercise - trying to keep up with a bunch of 8- and 9-year old spunky, energetic girls. 

Not only has coaching made a positive impact in my life physically and mentally, it has been a great way to give back to the community and meet some new friends.  As our wonderful season comes to an end, it has been extremely rewarding to see the girls improve over the last ten weeks using the skills and fundamentals I have been teaching them.  I look forward to continuing on as Coach Courtney for many years to come.  GO STORM!!’