Abby is 10 years old. She is bravely fighting her very own personal battle against cancer. She’s being treated at Hasbro’s Children Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, about 50 miles away from Boston. Her family, as well as the doctors and nurses, are doing their best to help her through the difficult days of chemotherapy and other treatments.
Abby is strong, but there are moments when the pain and the challenging situation just overwhelm her. In such moments, she looks forward to 8.30pm, when all the children in the hospital get a special treat.
Several minutes before 8:30pm, they usher up to their windows with flashlights in their little hands, excitingly awaiting the start of the daily routine.
At exactly 8:30pm, they look out and see a large number of lights blinking and shining their way from all over town. With their own lamps, the children answer by blinking flashes back into the dark night to the many people who have gathered to wish these little patients a good and restful night of sleep.
It’s an amazing display of people coming together and supporting each other. It was established, when Steve Brosnihan felt there had to be something else we could do for these children.
Steve is Hasbro’s resident cartoonist. He supports these little souls by drawing funny and imaginative pictures with them, so they can enjoy a few moments of playful and light-hearted distraction.
About 5 years ago, on his way home from the hospital, Steve started to pause at a certain place. He got off his bike and illuminated the headlight of his bicycle toward the hospital’s patients. Before long, more children heard about Steve’s activity, and soon it became an established routine.
But it did not stop with Steve.
Together with previous patients, their parents, police officers, and local businesses, the whole community started to meet up at 8:30pm at various locations to flash their lights toward the hospital.
At one point, the children even received a flashlight message that was from very far away. In March 2019, astronaut Anne McClain taped a goodnight from space.
“She spoke directly to the kids at the hospital, all of a sudden she was rotating in weightless spins while the lights were flashing.” It was before COVID, and NASA gave Steve the video to premier for an assembly of patients and staff. The little patients were awed to receive their good night message from outer space.
(If you have time please watch this heart-warming 2 minutes clip)
Abby says: “At night, when you go to bed, you know people are saying good night to you. You know that they are caring for you.” This simple, yet powerful, gesture not only helps the children. It also helps their parents through difficult times. Abby’s mother says, “After these long and difficult days in the hospital, you get yourself to the window at 8:30pm and you have that little bit of peace and happiness.”
Another little patient shared that he knows he is not fighting alone. Smiling, he says “You can signal back to them to show them a little love too. They take time out of their day. It seems so little. but it’s so meaningful!”
As we approach this year’s Christmas, I’m wondering whether we can take this wonderful Hasbro’s children hospital routine and apply to our own lives wherever we are.
I am sure there are people who would love a little greeting from us and a little encouragement. So, please get out your “flashlights” and make this festive season a little brighter by reaching out to someone you know could do with a little love.