Walter Lawson Benefits From Volunteer's Long Commitment

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John Didier was introduced to Walter Lawson Children's Home when his grandson, Brian Lowery, lived there 20 years ago.
 
"Brian had a problem and he couldn't walk. He never outgrew the mentality of a 3-year-old," Didier said.
 
"When I visited him, I got to know most of the nurses who worked there. They asked me if I knew how to make a therapy table."

The therapy tables keep nurses off the floor when they play with and train the children, and provide a place for children to work on motor skills, take naps and stretch.

Didier said the first therapy table the nursing home purchased cost just over $1,000, but he was willing to build one at a lower price. His final product cost the nursing home $200.

Then he decided to make 25 more. Free of charge.

"I realized that this is just something I like to do," he said. "I've always liked working with wood and, when I get down in my basement, I like the time to myself. It keeps me busy."

The therapy tables are adjustable, so they suit children and nurses of many heights. Some tables have latches on the side as an added safety measure. He also carved a heart in each of the tables' legs in memory of Brian, who died at age 9.

The 85-year-old from Roscoe has been building furniture in his basement wood shop since he retired 27 years ago. His knack for design and construction comes in part from his career as a general manager and laborer at Bell & Gossett in Morton Grove.

Jan Primuth, director of nursing at Walter Lawson, has known Didier since his grandson moved in. She was the one who approached him about making the furniture 15 years ago.

"John and his family are different because they continued to volunteer and give to Walter Lawson, even after Brian's death," Primuth said. "Most people want to move on and try and forget about it, but John is a humble, giving man. He doesn't even realize how much he's helped us."

Didier didn't just make therapy tables. He also accepted the challenge of creating two-tier cabinets for each child's bedside table – 99 in all. It's taken him four years, but he's on the final six.

"The cabinets are like a little shelf," he said. "They go on the little 2-by-2-foot tables and make more room for the kids' toys and the nurses' equipment. The medicine and machines can take up a lot of space and not leave much room for anything else."

Even though Didier is in the homestretch on this project, Primuth thinks he'll stick around.

"We'll need him around to repair anything we break," she said. "And I'm sure he'll be more than willing to help. I don't think people realize the value of his volunteerism. We're lucky to have him."
 
Read the original article on the Rockford Register Star.

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