WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s iPods for Wounded Veterans has just returned from their first trip to the Northampton VA Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts. The Wilmington nonprofit organization dedicated to helping injured servicemen and women is halfway through their tour of New England veteran’s hospitals that ends in January.
At Northampton alone they met with over 200 injured servicemen and women, and founder and president Paul Cardello thinks they’ll have visited 1,000 by the time their tour is over.
In their six-month focus on veterans in the New England healthcare system, the iPods team has so far been to VAs in Providence, RI; White River Junction, VT; and Bedford, MA.
“No other group has ever attempted this before,” Cardello said. “It’s a year’s work that we’re doing in six months.”
With their name growing after years of visiting the D.C. area, he shares that the injured servicemen and women have been waiting for iPods to get there.
While Massachusetts has three VA hospitals, states like Maine and Connecticut have only one VA hospital. This means that these hospitals have more injured servicemen and women in need of all of the donations that iPods brings along with them — including knitted hats, scarves, and gloves from the Wilmington and Billerica senior centers, toiletry bags made by the Local Heroes Club, and laptops and iPad minis from Cornell University.
Their trip to Northampton was their biggest event ever, Cardello continued. The iPods team was joined by a group of Wilmington High School students at the Leeds hospital.
“[Our visits] puts a lot of smiles on these people’s faces,” he shared.
With funding complete to the end of the year, the team and their over 100 volunteers are amazed that they get to encounter this many veterans and bring them something to help get them through the day as they recover.
Of course, this tour could not happen without the support of sponsors and everyone in the community. Besides the senior citizens of Wilmington and Billerica, the high school’s Local Heroes club is always making new gifts to bring.
“It’s kind of exciting that our community all took it upon themselves to be a part of this.”
Cardello also offered thanks to the people of Wilmington who have supported and continue to support them with all of the work that they do. And he knows that there’s a lot of work left to do.
Next month, Cardello and the rest of the iPods team members will visit the West Haven, CT VA hospital on Oct. 20 with students from St. Sebastian’s School; and on the 27th they’ll take students from Malden Catholic to the VA in Augusta, ME. Then in December they go to the VA on the south shore and on Jan. 5 they visit Manchester, NH. They’re planning to hit every veterans hospital in New England before the six months is up.
iPods is also excited for the first time to join the Columbus Day Parade this year on by invitation from Mayor Marty Walsh. The Oct. 7 parade celebrates Boston’s heritage, particularly to honor Massachusetts’s military in their commitment to freedom.