By Laurence E. Parisi, AIA
A very special event took place during the 2017 AIA Conference in Orlando, for which I was privileged to be a part. The mission of this event, sponsored by the Andersen Window Company under the auspices of the Cheeriodical Children’s Foundation, was to bring happiness to children receiving medical care at the Florida Hospital for Children.
When asked by Gary Messiano, Business Architectural Representative for Andersen Windows, to be part of this great program, I admit I was a bit apprehensive. The thought of children with serious medical issues makes me deeply saddened. However, after learning about all the good the Cheeriodicals organization does, I accepted this mission to bring happiness and comfort to children facing hardship.
When the conference floor opened on Thursday, volunteers for the Cheeriodical event gathered at the Andersen Window display and started preparing gift boxes by filling them with toys, games, puzzles, plush animals, and many other fun items. All day long, there were many architects, students and other vendors stopping by and helping prepare gift boxes. The boxes were tailored for children of all ages and genders. By the end of Thursday, we had prepared approximately 150 boxes.
On Friday, a group of volunteers from the AIA Conference went to the Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando for the Cheeriodical event. We broke into teams of three, and made our rounds of the hospital floor. I particularly remember my group giving a gift box to a six year old boy. At first he was apprehensive, but with a little coaxing from his mother, he opened the box. The boy instantaneously became very excited about the contents of his gift box. He reminded me of Christmas mornings with my sons, years ago, when they were around the same age. I saw other children that day experiencing similar excitement with the Cheeriodical gift boxes.
It was wonderful to see these children experiencing moments of happiness and joy. Additionally, I learned that the Cheeriodical Foundation events take place in many children’s hospitals throughout the United States. Their edict is to bring a little joy into the lives of children who are critically ill. The young patients and their parents spend everyday hoping for recovery. The Cheeriodicles provide gentle support for the parents of the children.
If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to participate by volunteering for this wonderful cause. For me this was the highlight of the conference.