Editorial: A light of hope

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A hospital is a less than pleasant place to be for anyone. Most patients admitted to a hospital aren’t feeling good to begin with. The boredom and loneliness sure to set in — especially during an extended stay — making the experience more unbearable.

It’s even worse for a kid, who may not understand why he or she is there in the first place. All some know is that they were taken from home, parents, siblings and friends and made to sleep in a strange bed, in a strange building, in a strange city. It can be scary, sad and overwhelming for a youngster who is already likely dealing with a scary, sad, overwhelming health situation.

“People don’t realize when they drive by the hospital how many of us are looking out at them,” said Jess Caldarone, mother of a young girl who spent weeks in Hasbro Children’s Hospital fighting a cancer diagnosis. “A lot of kids can’t get out of there. It really makes a difference when we’re in there and feeling all alone. It lets them know they’re not alone in the world.”

Ms. Calderone is speaking about Good Night Lights, a grass-roots project started as a single light from the bicycle of the hospital’s resident cartoonist, Steve Brosnihan, that has turned into a nightly light show to say goodnight to the scores of children trying to recover from various ailments. Groups of volunteers gather at 8:30 every night at strategic points around Providence and East Providence where they have a clear line of sight to the hospital. Using the brightest handheld lights they can find, the volunteers aim their beams at the hospital, flashing their sweet dreams wishes.

The response is almost immediate. In the distance, small rectangles of light flicker back as the kids in the hospital acknowledge the volunteers’ efforts by responding in kind.
It is something the young patients wait for every night. It has become a source of hope and comfort. It lets them know they are not along stuck in some hospital bed. There are people outside thinking of them and hoping they feel better soon.

As with many things in life, the bigger, the better. The brighter the lights grow, the more connected to the outside world the children are likely to feel. There’s an easy way for anyone to take part. A group from Bristol’s First Congregational Church gathers at about 8:15 p.m. every Saturday and Monday night at the Quantum Association, 947 Veterans Memorial Parkway in East Providence, just across the river from the hospital. The group is always welcoming new members.

It costs nothing, and requires minimal effort to do good in the community and raise a child’s spirits. So let us all as a community shine brighter, and brighten the day — well, night — of so many hospital-bound children.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.