OAKLAND (CBS SF) – When Kelly Porter visits Children’s Hospital Oakland, he knows the way to the pediatric floor. And he knows what he is carrying in brightly wrapped bags will make difference for the kids who are facing long treatments ahead – lessons learned from a little boy named Aidan.
“He was the most creative guy that I ever met,” Porter remembered.
Porter met Aidan Immroth 14 years ago, when Aidan was just a baby. Aiden’s mom, Hallie Immroth, was Porter’s co-worker at the bank where they both worked in Texas. Porter said when Aidan was diagnosed with brain cancer it was his love of music and art that helped him through.
“He had a playlist for the night, for calming down because of the noise in the hospital and everything that is going on, so he had a really calming playlist. He had an inspiring playlist for when things got tough, so he understood music and art has the power it has to heal,” Porter explained.
Aidan wanted to share that power with other kids. So he and his mother, along with Porter, launched AIDAAN.org – adding an extra A in his name for “Angels in Disguise Are Always Near.” In three years, they have given out almost 150 iPods, iPads, and iPod Touches.
Porter relies on the hospital social workers to identify kids who would benefit most from the program. Hospital music therapist Maya Charlton says it’s doing just what Aidan hoped.
“The patients have responded amazingly,” Charlton said. “We have a lot of patients here who would never have the means to have this kind of equipment. And with the iPad that ‘AIDAAN’ donated to the music therapy program, kids are able to create their own music through ‘Garage Band.'”
AIDAAN.org started with music, then added devices for kids to use email for keeping in touch with friends, playing games, translating foreign languages. Each item is hand delivered, and individually decorated with a personal touch, the way Aidan intended. Aiden personally decorated over 80 iPod cases before he lost his battle with cancer in 2010. His mother continues their mission in Texas, while Kelly, who now works in San Francisco, volunteers in the Bay Area in memory of the little boy who taught him so much about perseverance.
“He was a kid that, for 13 years, changed who I am and changed my life. So I want others to know his story and to be inspired. To know what an amazing kid he was,” said Porter.
So for helping improve the experience for children facing long hospital treatments, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to the co-founders of AIDAAN.ORG, Hallie Immroth and Kelly Porter.
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