PEORIA — Ivan Tharp was back on familiar territory Wednesday, at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.
But instead of arriving as a patient — which he’s been several times over the years — the East Peoria teen was there on official business, with a bundle of activity bags for kids who are patients.
It’s Tharp’s project to qualify as an Eagle Scout, and rather than building something physical, as many students choose to, he wanted something that would build memories and leave smiles.
“If you build something, it’s going to eventually fall apart,” the East Peoria Community High School sophomore said.
With this, he says, “the idea and the thought is always there — that a former patient is giving back to the kids in the hospital”
And Tharp had a feeling for what would be important for kids at the hospital. He had three heart surgeries in his first 18 months of life because of congenital heart defect, and another at age 13.
“At one point, I was in a hospital bed and I would’ve loved a bag like what I made for those kids,” he said.
He started work on the project in June, made a mock-up of the first bag, then did fundraising and took donations to help with the effort. A few weekends ago, all the bags were prepared with aid from other members of his Scout Troop 627.
Even the date of delivery had meaning for Tharp. The bags were to be given to kids on Thursday, and he spent a Thanksgiving in the hospital nine years ago.
With so much experience with Children’s Hospital already, it made the project special for him.
“It really meant a lot doing it, giving back to the hospital that basically gave me a chance to live,” Tharp said.