HARWICH — Cole Strzepek’s efforts to keep kids a little more comfortable while in the hospital have paid off in a big way. The Cole’s Socks for Smiles initiative has collected more than 41,000 pairs of socks for children across the country.
Cole, a 12-year old Monomoy Regional Middle School student, has been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy and after suffering eight seizures within a 24- hour period he was back in Boston Children’s Hospital for four days this past summer. It wasn’t his first trip to the hospital and Cole remembered receiving a pair of soothing socks provided to the young patients there.
During this stay his mother, Erica Strzepek, went in search of a pair of those socks and learned there were just a few pairs left and Cole got one of the last pair in his size. Cole and Erica chatted about the socks, the comfort of theme based socks for the young patients meaning more than just keeping toes warm, and agreed they would begin a collection campaign to replenish the sock basket at Boston Children’s Hospital. They set a goal of contributing 500 pairs for the hospital.
His mother said this week they have collected more than 41,000 pairs of socks and they are being distributed to hospitals across the country. As well as the contribution to Boston’s Children’s Hospital there have been 1,100 pairs provided to both Mass General Hospital and Hasbro Hospital in Providence. Socks have been shipped to hospitals in Florida, New Jersey and Washington, she said.
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and the Epilepsy Foundation of New England honored Cole Strzepek at its annual gala with a certificate of heroism for his dedication to the epilepsy community.
“It’s been really rewarding for him,” his mother said. She related a story of a night at the museum event held at the Boston Science Museum when science based socks were provided for the kids. One child received a pair of Flash Gordon socks and the kid envisioned running so fast.
Once Cole announced his plans the initiative took off. Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port got together with their sock vendor and 30,000 pairs of socks were donated. Erica said community and regional response to this project has been unbelievable. A large box was placed in the community center and quickly filled with socks. She cited the Chatham Community Center conducting a car wash and the funds going to the purchase of 400 pairs of socks.
Working with the Message of Hope Foundation in Pocasset, a collection drive was waged in the Bournedale Elementary School in which 1,750 pairs of socks were garnered. Harwich Elementary School provided 250 pairs and Monomoy Regional High School another 375 pairs. They have received 50 pairs of socks from the Boston Red Sox and a Chris Sale signed baseball and a signed hockey puck from Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron.
Logistics for distribution were getting difficult, Cole’s mother said, so they began working with the Message of Hope Foundation, using their network, and socks are now being distributed inside Happy Hope Bags containing gifts for children in hospitals across all 50 states.
Boston Children’s Hospital is putting a story together on Cole’s Socks for Smiles program. They asked him “why socks?”
“I like the idea of donating socks because they aren’t something like candy that disappears. These socks can be used more than once,” was Cole Strzepek’s response.
“It makes you think about what one small thing you can do for kids in the hospital,” Erica Strzepek said. “It was certainly rewarding for Cole.”