JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Annabelle Johnson was all smiles as she sat on her new bright blue, turtle-covered IV pole "lilypad" in an inpatient pediatric ward at Brooke Army Medical Center here. The 19-month-old held on tight as her father, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Evan Johnson, moved her down the hallway.
"Seeing her smile makes this all worth it," said Lillian Sun, a member of the Westlake Robotics Club in Austin, Texas. High school students Sun, Amaya Mali and Sophie Rosenberg traveled to BAMC Dec. 1 to hand-deliver 10 handmade lilypads.
The lilypads are decorated platforms that rest at the base of the IV pole, offering pediatric patients a fun place to sit as they move throughout the hospital, Sun explained. The Robotics Club constructed the birchwood pads after hearing about a similar project in Seattle.
Seattle high schooler Nick Konkler, who had battled cancer since he was a child, thought up the device when he saw a patient having a difficult time moving her IV poles in the hospital. Konkler died in February 2015, but his fellow students at Auburn Riverside completed the project and donated the lily pads to a local hospital.
"Another student here heard about the project and we thought it was a great idea," Mali explained.
The Robotics Club built the wooden pads and enlisted the help of their fellow students at Westlake High School for the decorations. The result was 10 brightly colored lilypads covered in animals, sea creatures, phrases and designs. Wanting to help military families, the club decided they would donate the pads to children at BAMC.
"We're so happy this was a success," Rosenberg said.
Army Col. Elizabeth Murray, chief of the Maternal Child Nursing Section, expressed her gratitude for the students' hard work on behalf of BAMC patients. "This is a blessing to have this gift; it means a lot," she told the students.
"I don't think our kids are going to want to stop riding on the lilypads," she added as she watched Annabelle sit on her lilypad eagerly waiting for her father to resume the ride down the hall.