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Woody's Heart

The Legend of the "Woody Heart"

In every Dances With Wood project kit you will find a piece of wood in the shape of a wooden heart. This is called a “Woody Heart,” and here is how it got its name.

On a cold winter’s morning I arose just after 5 to start a busy day in the local children’s hospital. My first job was to put together wood kits for the children to build. The day before, I had cut, drilled and sanded the pieces of wood. All that remained was to vacuum each piece to remove dust, and put the pieces into bags so I could take them to the hospital.

When I walked into my woodshop, it was just as I had left it the day before, with one exception. Next to the 10 empty yellow project bags, there was a pile of small wooden hearts. I was very puzzled, and wondered where they had come from. Well, there were 10 kits waiting to be bagged and there were 10 wooden hearts, so I decided to place a wooden heart in each of the bags. I sealed the project kits and packed them into my carry bag for my day at the hospital.

As I drove to the hospital, I kept wondering where the wooden hearts had come from. When I arrived, I met with my friends in the Child Life Department, who gave me a list of children to work with. The first child on the list was a 7-year-old girl called Sarah, with whom I had worked several months earlier. She was back for another round of chemotherapy. When I entered her room, Sarah was sitting up in bed waiting for me, with her table cleared and placed over her bed.

Her mother was sitting by the side of the bed and we all shared a friendly greeting. Knowing that Sarah would be occupied for the next hour, Sarah’s mom left to have a shower and some breakfast.I had brought a jewelry box kit for Sarah to build, and in a matter of minutes she had opened the kit package and was eagerly studying the workbook. Julie, the nurse, came in and wanted to know all about the box and Sarah’s plans to paint it. She checked the pumps, lines and other medical paraphernalia before leaving us to work on the project.

It was not long before Sarah was tapping away with the hammer and assembling her jewelry box. After 25 minutes, the box stood tall and proud on her table as she pondered the selection of paints and brush sizes. Another 30 minutes passed, and voila! A beautiful pink, white and blue jewelry box had been born. Sarah lay back on her pillows to gaze at the work of art as she shared with me the endless list of things she was planning to keep in her new box.

As I began to tidy up, Sarah picked up the yellow kit bag and for the first time, noticed the wooden heart that lay on the bottom. “What’s this?” she asked, holding it up.

“Looks like a piece of wood to me,” I replied, not wanting to limit her imagination as she interpreted what it meant to her. She became quite serious as she asked the next question. “Where did it come from?” My answer was quick and simple. “I don’t know,” I shrugged my shoulders.

She then wrapped her little fingers around the wooden heart and pulled it close to her own heart. Her eyes closed and she became very quiet, as if listening to something only she could hear. After about 15 seconds, her eyes popped open and she gazed into my eyes as a small tear rolled down her cheek. In a soft whisper she said, “My angel sent it to me.” At that point, I had to hold back my own tears as an incredible sense of peace filled the room. Sarah sat silently in her bed, gazing at the wooden heart.

I asked her what she planned to do with her wooden heart. A small frown formed on her forehead. “No!” she said in a disapproving tone, “it’s not a wooden heart!” She held it close to her own heart again. “It’s not a wooden heart,” she repeated softly, snuggling under her covers for a nap. “It’s a Woody Heart.” Her eyes followed me as I packed up the tools and paints. Without further words, her little hand came out from under the blankets for a high-five farewell. We shared a smile, and I slipped out of the room.

And so it was that the wooden hearts that so mysteriously appeared – and still appear – in my woodshop got the name “Woody Hearts.” Over the last few years, thousands of Woody Hearts have traveled in wood kits into the lives of children and young adults all over America. The most common question I hear is, “What do I do with it?” My usual response is a shrug of the shoulders, followed by a blank look. I then ask, “What would you like to do with it?”

Because the Dances With Wood program serves children in fourteen hospitals, I do not get to work with all of the children who receive Woody Hearts, but they do all receive Dances With Wood workbooks. So, to share with children just a few of the many ideas for what one can do with a Woody Heart, I wrote these ideas in the workbooks.

You also can print out these pages so that you can share them with your family and friends.

If you are a child or adult reading this legend and you do not have a Woody Heart – or you have one but would like another to give as a gift – I would love to send one to you. There is no charge for handling or shipping. This is just a gift from me to you. All you have to do is send me an email with your name and address by hitting this link to me.


If you are under 16 years of age, please ask a parent or guardian to email me with your address and first name, and I will mail the heart to you. If you have any new, fun ideas for what one can do with a Woody Heart, please share them with me.

Thank you for reading about the Woody Heart.

With best wishes for your health and happiness,

Your friend in Wood,



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