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Who will take up Hendershot's causes?

August 03, 2008

Those close to the late Linn Hendershot say that before he died on May 1, he had a feeling that his time on this earth was drawing to a close.

And so he drew up a "to do" list, in hopes that the people who came after him would carry on with the many causes he embraced. I recently spoke to his niece, Cynthia Hardin Perini, about the list and the items on it.

Toward he end of Hendershot's funeral service, Perini said her brother got up "and challenged everyone to carry on Linn's legacy of never giving up."

"Never give up" could have been Hendershot's motto. Stricken with polio at age 3, he nevertheless had, by all accounts, a fairly normal childhood and went on to the University of Maryland, where he worked for the sports information office.

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From there, he went on to become a public relations and marketing specialist with Bucknell University, the Atlanta Falcons football team and NASCAR.

When his health deteriorated, he came back to the Hagerstown area and became a patient at the Western Maryland Hospital.

Few expected him to ever leave, but he did, moving into his own apartment and later running successfully for a term on the Hagerstown City Council.

His causes were legion and he did not hesitate to employ his style of gentle persuasion on those he felt could help him. Most did, because he never asked for himself, but for those he felt were in need.

Some causes that Perini said he would have liked to see carried on include the following:

o Collecting fully-functioning computers to distribute to seniors and disabled people. Perini said he worked with his own family and the Lazarus Foundation to collect computers and outfit them so that even those who had little control of their hands could operate them.

"It was a form of entertainment to open up the world to them and make sure they had access," Perini said.

o Obtaining software for those computers.

o Continuing the projects of MIHI - Many Individuals Helping Individuals, including Project Lifesaver, which offers tracking devices for those individuals whose illnesses cause them to wander away form home or institutions.

o Continuation of Fishing Frenzy, an event held at Pangborn Park that includes fishing and a variety of other activities for children.

o Support for Holly Place, an assisted-living home for senior citizens who don't have the money or insurance to get into other facilities. Holly Place has repeatedly faced financial problems, in part because of changing state regulation.

o Building additional support for Community Rescue Service, which serves a population of people, who, in many cases, don't have the health insurance that would reimburse CRS.

While still alive, Henderhot helped CRS get the first EZ-10 device, which allows paramedics to place fluids into the body even when a vein was difficult to find.

Ironically, A CRS crew used one on Hendershot the day he died. Though he couldn't be saved, it allowed his organs to be preserved for transplantation.

o The Washington County Disabilities Advisory Committee.

"He wanted to make sure somebody kept their eye on that ball," Perinisaid.

o Horizon/Goodwill. Hendershot, who served on the board of the agency, which provides training and employment for the developmentally disabled, among others, wants to make sure its programs continue, Perini said.

o The Western Maryland Hospital Center's therapeutic gardens.

Hendershot was instrumental in getting different groups and individuals to work together to create gardens and a fish pond for of the hospital, so patients could enjoy nature without having to exit their wheelchairs.

"He was working on the music integration part of it," Perini said, so that patients could not only watch the flowers, but listen to soothing tunes.

o The Mummers Parade. This venerable tradition has also experienced some financial difficulties in recent years and Perini said Hendershot hoped to get some more permanent funding for the event that draws thousands.

o Working on tax reform for senior citizens.

"He was focusing on protecting seniors as society ages, so that they can live comfortably without falling into poverty," Perini said.

A related goal, she said, was working on making assisted living affordable for the middle class.

o Support for the Boys & Girls Club, which works to keep young people occupied, out of trouble and focused on doing what they need to do to make a better life.

o Actively encouraging students to pursue higher education at local sites.

"He was trying to get our students to stay local," he said.

If Hendershot had another lifetime, he would no doubt make a serious dent in this list. That he did so much despite his disability should make the rest of us ashamed if we don't at least try to help with these causes that were so dear to him.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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