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Western Maryland Hospital Center hosts party for residents

December 27, 2001

Western Maryland Hospital Center hosts party for residents



By ANDREW SCHOTZ
andrews@herald-mail.com


The Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?" doesn't make many holiday song play lists.

But Tuesday's Christmas party at the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown wasn't traditional.

Rock 'n' roll karaoke was the main event.

And it was OK to be late, leave early or not come at all.

Phantom Shadow DJ Services of Chambersburg, Pa., brought a karaoke machine, which helped some people sing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll," Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph" and Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas."

Two Hagerstown acts - Morning Star Singers and Becky and Melissa Lloyd - also performed.

About 70 or 75 patients came to the afternoon party - many of them in wheelchairs - but not all at once.

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Some worried there wouldn't be extra people to help them if they needed it right away, said Mary Besecker, a member of Many Individuals Helping Individuals, or MIHI, which sponsored the party.

Also, "A lot of patients aren't moveable," said Bill Beard, MIHI's executive director.

David Clift listened to some of the songs from a spot in front of the stage and to others from the hall. In the middle of the afternoon, Clift said he still had four or five unopened presents in his room.

Clift, 50, who grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore, has lived in the hospital since September 1968, two months after he was paralyzed from the chest down in a diving accident.

Clift, who has stickers of World Wrestling Federation characters Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chyna on his wheelchair, said he's been writing, off and on, a book about his life.

Diane Hart was in the hallway in her wheelchair when a song struck a chord with her. She softly sang along.

Hart, who is blind, grew up in Staten Island, N.Y. She said her family moved to western Maryland because her mother got a job with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

Judy Dawson, who was pushing Hart's wheelchair, said the two women got to know each other as Dawson visited her father, John Lewis.

John Lewis entered the hospital after a stroke three years ago. Dawson said he worked for 48 years for Manbeck's Bread Co. in Hagerstown, retiring just before it shut down.

Unlike some patients, Lewis is usually surrounded by family. Dawson said she, her three sisters and her brother take turns visiting every day, and usually several are there together, as was the case Tuesday.

"It's sad when families put people here and don't come to see them," said another sister, Sharon Whipp.

Besecker said the holiday party idea was started three years ago "to make sure everybody has somebody here on Christmas Day."

David Becker of Hagerstown was one of about 30 volunteers at the party and one of the few people there with no ties to the hospital, MIHI or St. John's Episcopal Church, the other party sponsor.

He saw a notice for the party in the newspaper and decided to help.

"I just wanted to do something different for a change," he said.

Becker distributed presents to patients in their rooms. Some flashed a smile, but those were the exceptions. "Not too many could respond," he said.

Every patient got at least one gift. Besecker said it took two weeks to wrap 130 presents.

MIHI and St. John's provided some of the gifts, while others were donated. They included sweatshirts, slippers and toiletries. Lotion was a popular item, she said.

Waypoint Bank contributed money to buy a front-loading washing machine. Val-Pak contributed money for a new dryer.

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