"Smile Therapy" Enters New Era
The little boy isn’t feeling well today. He says he isn’t sure if he has the energy to stand up or leave his hospital room when he hears the Magic Castle Cart is rolling down the hall.
But he doesn’t have to move a muscle. The cart, and its magic, will come right to his bedside.
“Let’s see what we’ve got here,” says Bob Baxter, the man who has brought the Magic Castle Cart to Riley kids for the past 22 years. Baxter adeptly works to put the boy at ease, helping him pick out a pile of free toys including gigantic green glasses with a fake nose.
Soon enough, the boy is smiling.
“We administer ‘smile therapy,’” explains Baxter, a Life Governor and past President of Riley Children’s Foundation who has spent 47 years serving Riley. “We do not leave the room until a child smiles. And that’s what brings us back the next time. We bring them a little relief from all their medical treatment.”
At age 87, Baxter is now transitioning his administrative duties for the Magic Castle Cart to volunteers Jordyn Theofanis and Tami Fohl. They’ll help take care of finances, stocking the cart, thanking the longtime donors who support the program and scheduling volunteers. Bob will continue visiting the hospital every Tuesday afternoon to deliver those gifts—and smiles—to kids.
“Bob is amazing,” says Theofanis. “I am so grateful and honored to be doing this work. I think we get more from the kids than we give.” Fellow volunteer Carol Remak says Tuesdays are now her favorite day of the week since that’s when she gets to bring the Magic Castle Cart to Riley kids. “The thought that we can enter a room and make a child smile by giving them a toy—it just fills my heart,” says Remak.
Tami Fohl, who has been volunteering with the Magic Castle Cart since 2000, adds, “Bob taught me the ropes: everyone gets a smiley face flower; spiders are handed out to scare nurses; big hats and goofy sunglasses look good on moms and dads too. Thank you, Bob, for your decision to create and implement the Magic Castle Cart program years ago; and for your laughter, and friendship. I am forever grateful. Well done, my friend!”
Down the hall, Bob is warming up another patient. “You can never have too many teddy bears,” he tells the teenaged girl. Within minutes, she has hands full of toys and is wearing a brightly colored flower necklace, along with a smile.
The team of volunteers is grateful for these opportunities to watch Bob in action with Riley patients, and for the chance to carry his “smile therapy” mission into the future. “Bob is magical with those kids,” says Remak. “He is a special, unique man.”
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