APRIL 7, 1953
NEW YORK, Monday—In January a year ago Look Magazine published a story about the Veterans Hospital Radio Guild. Now—almost a year and a half later—I want to write something about it in this column.
The work that has been done by a group of professionals in radio work—directors, authors and writers—is nothing short of remarkable, and it follows the line that always pleases me because it helps people to help themselves.
Back in 1948 a group of entertainers going through the wards of hospitals discovered that when the entertainment ended there was a letdown in the day-to-day programs of the patients and they sank back into gloom. In the mind of one of the young women who witnessed this, an idea took shape. She suggested, "Why couldn't we help these veterans do their own entertainment?"
And so this new program was born.
The professionals found that among the veterans there were always some people who could act, write, direct, announce or narrate or do whatever was needed. The experiment began in Halloran Hospital on Staten Island. It has now spread to include the Kingsbridge VA Hospital, Lyons VA Hospital, Brooklyn VA Hospital, Castle Point VA Hospital, and, lastly, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Hospital.
It has been found that this training, in which the men get a chance to use skills they may perhaps have had before and never realized it, and in which they can develop new skills, has a therapeutic quality in itself. Suddenly a man's spirit will revive for his taking part, and such revival is sorely needed when one has spent a year or two in a hospital bed.
When the professional members of the guild first visited some of the members of the future guild who were patients, they were met with bitterness and indifference. Many of these men wanted only to be left alone. What did the future hold for them? Some of them were going to spend the rest of their lives flat on their backs or in wheelchairs. It isn't always easy, if you have lived an active physical life and are young, to discover that there is a life of the mind, and that it can be lived actively and takes as much practice and effort as the physical skills you once worked to acquire. The guild found many a young man, whom it took months to win to this new effort, but the Veterans Radio Hospital Guild has grown because the professionals had patience and keen interest in every individual they served.
I think all of us will want to know about this work and to follow it, and we hope it spreads to every veterans hospital in the country. It needs contributions—but what work of this kind does not? Money should come from us. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to be in a veterans hospital should find out about it and give it support of every kind we can.