LANCASTER, Pa.— Advent is upon us once again, and that means Mychal’s Message is busy collecting food, clothing, necessities and gifts for those in need this Christmas.
In the past six years, the Lancaster-based organization estimates distributing more than 175,000 new items to the homeless and the poor, in memory of Mychal Judge, OFM, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Christmas treasures come in many forms, but none greater than when they give others the gifts of dignity and love,” said Kelly Ann Lynch, a founder of the organization.
Christmas Treasures Project
The organization’s “Christmas Treasures” project asks for a donation of $20 to fill a stocking with needed toiletries and other personal items for men, women and children.
Men’s stockings will include a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, shampoo, deodorant, shavers, shaving cream, soap, candy, a pair of socks and gloves. Women’s stockings will include a toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shavers, candy, feminine products, a manicure kit, a pair of socks, and candy. Children’s stockings will include a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, powder, band-aids, a night light, Play-Doh, bubbles, a pair of socks, candy, crayons and a coloring book.
For a $20 donation, donors will receive a small stocking with a note explaining the project that they can give to someone on their gift list, according to Lynch.
A Coat of Honor for Ryan
In addition, the organization is again collecting $25 contributions to buy coats for the homeless. Named this year, “A Coat of Honor for Ryan,” the project honors Ryan Stuart McCormick, a New Jersey paramedic who responded on Sept. 11. Ryan developed Hodgkin’s disease and lost his battle to cancer last Sept. 26, at the age of 34.
As family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Ryan, he wore his navy blue dress uniform — his coat of honor. The Mychal’s Message Web site said, “Ryan wore many coats during his lifetime, but none greater than the coat he wore when he prepared to meet His Savior — his coat of honor.”
A tax-deductible donation of $25 will purchase a coat for a homeless man or woman, according to Lynch, who spend her youth at St. Joseph’s Parish in East Rutherford, N.J., where Mychal served.
A Children’s Outing
Mychal’s Message co-founder Shannon Hickey, Lynch’s college-age daughter, recently ran her second annual pre-Thanksgiving cultural outing for children in the Lancaster schools.
On Nov. 12, Mychal’s Message took 75 kindergartener to Hands-on House Children’s Museum in Lancaster.
Last year, the organization took 300 children from poor communities in Lancaster to a theater performance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
“Last year we were able to use extra funds raised for the theater event to bring some children to Hands-on House,” said Hickey. “They enjoyed it so much I knew I wanted to make it happen again.”
Twenty-five students from Lancaster Catholic High School volunteered to chaperone the event. Each of the children from King Elementary School received a goodie bag with a pencil, modeling clay, candy, and a prayer card with the Serenity Prayer and the prayer of Mychal Judge.
Mychal’s Message began in January 2002 when Hickey and her family marked the anniversary of her life-saving liver transplant by collecting socks for the homeless. Since the organization’s inception, items have been distributed in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, Oklahoma and Iraq.
As a recent community initiative, Hickey helped light a holiday tree at Ronald McDonald House in Hershey, Pa. The Dec. 1 event was part of the year-end appeal to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Pennsylvania (RMHC)
The current issue of Mychal’s Messenger newsletter thanks donors for their generosity and support and describes the annual Walk of Remembrance held this year on Sept. 7 to recognize those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001 as well as ways to give an alternative gift for Christmas. Mychal’s Message tote bags and shirts can be purchased along with the children’s book by Kelly Ann Lynch, He Said Yes.
To donate to the causes above, send checks to:
P.O. Box 6404
Lancaster, PA 17607
Donations can also be made online.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.