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Inpatient Kids Rock Out With Donated Chairs

Feb. 19, 2009 — Roy Lester Schneider Hospital received a quartet of brand new blue and white rocking chairs Thursday, but they weren't for the older folks; they were headed in the opposite direction — for kids and their moms.
"The chairs weren't really my idea," said Josephine Hodge. "I asked the pediatrics staff for a wish list. We wanted to do something for the pediatrics ward."
Thursday would have been her son Nigel's 26th birthday. He died in 1994 at 11 years old, just six weeks after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.
Hodge, though saddened, is philosophical about her loss. She and her husband, Chester, established the Nigel O. Hodge Foundation in their son's memory, and each year they find ways to help children in the Caribbean community. "It's all we can do," Hodge said Thursday. "What would we do with the money?"
The Hodges received a settlement from a wrongful death lawsuit and established the fund at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in 1996. Funds from the settlement have subsidized the foundation and have helped provide more than $40,000 to afflicted children in the territory, Anguilla, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.
The chairs are for moms to rock their babies or older children, while they recuperate in the pediatrics ward. There's a special playroom for the kids, cheerfully decorated in reds, yellows, pinks blues and greens, the walls covered in with flower cutouts.
The rocking chairs turned out to be a fine idea. Just ask one-day-old Ian Thomas Jr., or, better yet, his mom, Roshanda Gray, relaxing with her feet up on the accompanying foot stool, surrounded by staff and grandmother, Jennie Gray.
Ian, though not able to express his comfort in words, grinned with all the attention. He has a full head of glistening black hair. "That's because I always had heartburn," said Gray. "They say, no heartburn, bald baby. This is my first, and no more heartburn," she said, with a smile.
Hodge and her friend Juliette Fowler tried out the chairs, themselves, and deemed them comfortable before taking one to the new mom. Fowler's son, Kenneth, 26, a U.S. Army captain now, and Nigel grew up together. Fowler is a volunteer for the foundation.
"Last year we adopted the Health and Fitness Program at Lockhart Elementary School," Hodge said. "We made a donation last year of more than $1,000 worth of exercise equipment to help the students stay physically fit. Nigel was at Lockhart in the sixth grade."
Hodge said the work with the children "is what keeps me going, doing something Nigel would have liked." Just a few months ago, the foundation donated a $3,000 chair to the Charlotte Amalie High School special education class, she said. Fund-raising is a year-around activity. "What we need are volunteers," she said, "lots."
The Foundation is having an awareness day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at Tutu Park Mall. "We'll have trinkets on sale, and we'll talk about the foundation," Hodge said.
To donate, call 774-6031.
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