A current fad with tweens, Rainbow Loom bracelets, became the vehicle for a recent mission project by third-graders at St. Vincent de Paul School. Together with a team of nurses and doctors from Children’s Hospital Colorado, the students provided 400 colorful bracelets, along with notes handwritten in Spanish, to hospitalized children 2,500 miles away in Guatemala.
The idea to mass-produce the popular bracelets for kids preparing for surgery—made by looping rubber bands together on a plastic two-by-eight inch pegboard loom—came about last September.
“My son gave a bracelet to my aunt who’s a nurse at Children’s Hospital,” said Margie Burns, St. Vincent de Paul parent. “The next day while consoling a young boy who was nervous about an upcoming surgery, she distracted him with the bracelet. His eyes lit up when he saw it! Seeing the joy it brought him she decided to give him the bracelet, and from that moment his fears subsided and he was ready to go to surgery.”
That reaction set the stage for organizing a larger long-distance effort.
Heidi Childs, staff nurse with Children’s anesthesia care unit and the Global Health Initiatives Foundation at Children’s Hospital, heard about the bracelet and saw an immediate fit with one of the foundation’s pediatric missions. Through GHIF, each year a Denver-based team from Children’s travels to Guatemala for general and cosmetic surgeries for patients ranging from one month old to 21 years old.
Childs visited St. Vincent’s third graders to tell them about the Guatemalan mission, its surgery recipients and its medical professionals. She also taught them about the country itself, its culture and the fact that they speak Spanish, a subject that has been in St. Vincent’s kindergarten through eighth-grade curriculum for 10 years.
“Spanish helps our students open their eyes to the world around them and see the universality of the Church,” said Spanish teacher Josh Florence, who assisted students with the messages that accompanied the bracelets. “Our Spanish program not only prepares students to participate in a global economy, but also to see Christ in their growing worldview and to have the needed tools to share their faith with those they come in contact with throughout their communities and the world.”
Students spent time both at home and in class working on the project.
“It feels good helping people,” said third-grader Mariah Mahoney, “and knowing that when they wake up after surgery, they’ll realize that people care about them.”
The project was a response the spirit of service and mercy demonstrated by the school’s patron saint, as well as Pope Francis’ call to service.
“The Holy Father has called us all to serve Christ’s people,” said third-grade teacher Shannon Yoder. “Here at St. Vincent de Paul we try and live out that service in a way that affects not only our community, but as far as we can reach.
“We are so proud of our students for wanting to learn about those in other places who need our help,” she continued, “and giving in even the smallest of capacities.”