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Minnesota National Guard
Guard Aviators return to Children's Hospital

Spending an afternoon with sick children is certainly a change of pace from flying missions in a Black Hawk helicopter

Yet visiting children is what 1st Lt Jesse Pope, a pilot with the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion (2-147 AHB), was doing Friday

"It provides a good perspective," said Pope, who, with Spc Matthew O'Brien, took a break from his annual training period to visit Children's Hospitals and Clinics, in St Paul Children's cares for tens of thousands of children every year "God forbid your kid is sick and this is your situation," he said

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Part of the National Guard's community involvement, says Pope, is demonstrating compassion in what can seem like a harsh occupation "I think that activities like this are important for our effect on the community," said Pope "To be seen and to provide a face to the uniform is important"

Fridays are Bingo days, so 1st Lt Pope called Bingo numbers via closed-circuit television while Spc O'Brien visited kids throughout the hospital and played a Bingo card himself Winners got their choice of gifts supplied by both the Guard and the hospital After lunch, Pope and O'Brien paid visits to children in their rooms, and stayed for short conversations where the kids were up to it

The kids don't see military members every day, so for many, the visits were a special treat "It's definitely received well," said Tom Marsolais, a child life activities associate whose job is to make sure kids have fun things to do during their stay

"A lot of people are really grateful when the military comes in," said Marsolais "Every day is different in the hospital"

The 34th Combat Aviation Brigade has been reaching out to conduct community outreach/volunteer activities for the past 4 years during our annual training to give back to the communities and organizations that support our Soldiers and families," said Capt Andrea Bond, community relations officer "We worked with the St Paul Children's Hospital last year too, and we are hoping to make this an annual event"

Serving as Minnesota's children's hospital since 1924, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is one of the largest pediatric health care organizations in the United States, with 347 staffed beds at its two hospitals in St Paul and Minneapolis An independent, not-for-profit health care system, Children's of Minnesota provides care through more than 12,000 inpatient visits and more than 200,000 emergency room and other outpatient clinic visits every year Children's is the only Minnesota hospital system to provide comprehensive care exclusively to children Please visit wwwchildrensmnorg

June 8, 2012
Photo and story by Spc Thomas Keeler
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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