Organizers had to get a little creative this year, but no way were the Hirschbecks going to let a pandemic get in the way of brightening the spirits of some very deserving and special children this year.
John and Denise Hirschbeck, founders of the Magic of Michael Foundation, each year shop for, purchase, wrap and present gifts to families of palliative care patients at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. This year, due to COVID, they connected with the families online.
Instead of hosting them at the Beeghly campus as in years past, the Hirschbecks were invited into the families’ own living rooms – virtually – one by one to meet them and watch them open gifts.
Hirschbecks make wish list items come true
Hospital representatives worked with the families and presented wish list items to the Magic of Michael Foundation. They’re also provided with the personal stories of the health and economic challenges these children and families face.
“Those papers are my bible and I’ve had them for over a month. We always feel like we get to know these kids and families, and it’s nice to put a face to a name,” Denise said.
Charlene Roman-Morales of Austintown and her children, Jaydin, 9, and Giovanni, 6, were among the patient families involved. Jaydin has a rare and severe form of epilepsy from a traumatic brain injury. He also has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia.
“I was taken back by the Hirschbecks’ generosity,” Charlene said. “I’m a single mom and have been doing this on my own for 9 years. To hear that someone wanted to help me and my family – this year of all years – really meant the world to us.”
Jaydin’s difficult year made brighter
Jaydin spent much of the first two months of 2020 in the hospital in Akron due to complications with his health.
“It was a scary time,” Charlene said. “We got very close to Jaydin giving up.”
He pulled through, and he left the hospital as COVID started emerging. Doctors told her “Whatever you do, keep him home.” His compromised health would put him at great risk if he were to catch the virus.
The Hirschbecks put a huge smile on Jaydin and Giovanni’s faces with their gifts. Jaydin got a soft blanket, a winter coat, a hoodie, sweatpants and loads of Star Wars items. Giovanni opened Fortnite figurines, Star Wars clothes, Minecraft toys and his favorite gift, a Sonic remote control car.
“I wanted this in my dreams!!!” he shouted. “Yeah, babbbbbbyyyyyy!”
Mom wasn’t left out, either. In addition to lunch from Panera, she received gift cards for groceries and other essentials.
Magic of Michael Foundation helps 5 palliative care patient families
Four other families received similar visits from the Hirschbecks and Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation over two days. The Hirschbecks’ foundation was created in the memory of their son Michael who passed away in 2014 from complications of a genetic brain disease.
John Hirschbeck is a retired Major League Baseball umpire. He and Denise reside in the Mahoning Valley.