The American Cancer Society, construction industry partners and Operating Engineers 324, a local union for heavy equipment operators, brought tons of excavators and heavy equipment nearly to the bedside of patients at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
This is the second year for the event at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, held in September in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“There’s nothing like putting on a hard hat and operating a real backhoe or getting in a dump truck simulator to take your mind off being sick or recovering from an injury,” said Leeann McDowell, Associate Director of Development for the American Cancer Society’s Detroit office.
“We’re excited that so many equipment operators and suppliers are so enthusiastic about providing this opportunity.”
Operating Engineers 324 and their contractor partners brought about 20 pieces of equipment to Brush Mall, a central courtyard between Children’s Hospital of Michigan and DMC Harper University Hospital, located at East Canfield and Mack Avenue.
Inpatients at Children’s Hospital of Michigan who were well enough to come outside, as well as outpatients visiting the campus, were able to climb aboard the machinery and operate booms and buckets with the help of industry volunteers.
Operating Engineers 324 also brought construction simulators to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan lobby for kids unable to go outside or get in the larger pieces of equipment.
And as a special bonus, patients and visitors were able to experience a full-size, late model race car, courtesy of New Baltimore-based Keegan Sobilo Racing and 15-year-old driver Keegan Sobilo.
Sobilo, who has been racing since he was 8 years old, also volunteers to support children facing cancer.
Mini version of ‘The Big Dig’
The event was a smaller version of The Big Dig held every July at Operating Engineers 324 Construction Career Center in Howell.
That event provides children from across southeast Michigan a hands-on introduction to the construction industry and field of STEM, and also serves as a fundraising platform for the American Cancer Society’s pediatric cancer initiatives.
“As much as we’d love to see all the kids be able to attend the Big Dig event in Howell, we know that many are receiving care and restricted in what they can do,”said Ken Dombrow, Operating Engineers324 President, “so we all work together to bring a mini-version right to them.
“Our members may be a strong bunch working with massive construction equipment, but we have a soft spot for kids who are sick or hurt and going through a tough time.”
Tons of fun
The participants — contractors and labor organizations as well as equipment manufacturers Michigan CAT and ALTA Equipment Group — also hosted games, crafts, demonstrations and other activities at the event.
And Beyond Juice provided smoothies for patients and their families.
Children’s Hospital of Michigan CEO Archie Drake said enrichment activities like The Big Dig help keep kids’ spirits up as they battle diseases like cancer.
“Positive experiences like The Big Dig are so helpful in the healing process,” Drake said. “We’re thankful the American Cancer Society, so many construction industry partners, Operating Engineers 324 and others were able to bring such a novel experience to Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“From offering bingo and music to art therapy and a full-time teacher, our teams are always working to keep patients engaged. The Big Dig has a big impact!”
Thanks to Children’s Hospital of Michigan Communications Manager Tammy Battaglia for contributing this uplifting article to SocialHouseNews.com.