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For Children with Cancer, a Special Gift from Ironworkers

Posted on March 9, 2009 | in Labor News | by
Photo credit: Ironworkers Local 7  
   

The members of Ironworkers Local 7 work hard in the cold, windy weather in Boston. But they have found a way to keep their hearts warm and to provide a special gift to hundreds of young cancer patients.

Children who come to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, each day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the building.

So far, the workers have paid tribute to more than 100 children. Last Friday, ABC News spotlighted members of Local 7 and named the children they honor as its “Persons of the Week.” 

Tommy, a 10-year-old cancer patient whose vision has been restored by chemotherapy treatments at the clinic, told ABC:

You put your name on a piece of paper and then hold it up to the window, and the people will see and then they’ll spray paint your name on. Now I know I’m always part of this building.

Click here to see the ABC report.

The Ironworkers began the ritual of the names in 1996 when they were building the Research Laboratories at Dana-Farber. When they began working on this latest project, they resumed the practice. The workers say it’s a way to honor the children.

Michael Walsh, a Local 7 foreman, told ABC:

It was spontaneous. I think one child put their name on a window. One ironworker saw that name, spray painted, ‘Hi Kids,’ and then that name on a beam—and it just grew from there.

“It’s been a tough winter—cold, snowy,” said Walsh, a 27-year ironworker veteran.

But the men have been plowing through because they know they’re going to see the kids. You’re bringing a little bit of joy into their lives. So this job is probably one of those jobs most of us will never forget. There’s a lot of softies up there working for me right now.

This type of kindness and support of those with problems is not unusual for union members, says Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes:

As a human being, I’m touched by the gestures of these workers.  As a parent, I’m profoundly grateful. As a fellow Local 7 Ironworker, I have to say that as proud as I am of these kindnesses, I’m equally unsurprised. The members of the labor movement perform acts of kindness like this every day. We contribute in ways large and small, symbolic and concrete.

The labor movement hasn ‘t forgotten that it’s all about families, and there’s nothing more important to a family than our kids. As union people, we call perfect strangers brother and sister, and those Ironworkers saw those kids at Children Hospital as if they were their own. That something so simple can have an impact so grand just speaks to the role workers play in making this country as great as it is. It’s nice the press caught on to the good work we do as working people.

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