The Legend of the Woody Heart

The Legend of the Woody Heart

In every Dances With Wood project kit, you’ll find a heart-shaped piece of wood. It’s called a “Woody Heart,” and here’s how it got its name.

One morning, I arose just after five to start a busy day in the local children’s hospital. The day before, I had cut, drilled, and sanded the pieces of wood. All that remained was to vacuum each piece and package the kits. When I walked into my wood shop, it was just as I had left it, with one exception. Next to the yellow project bags, there was a pile of small wooden hearts. I wondered where they came from. Well, there were ten kits waiting to be bagged and ten wooden hearts, so I placed a heart in each bag.

When I arrived at the hospital, my friends in the Child Life Department gave me a list of children to work with. The first was seven-year-old Sarah, with whom I had worked several months earlier. She was back for another round of chemotherapy.

I had brought a jewelry box kit for Sarah to build, and within minutes she was eagerly studying the workbook. A nurse came in and wanted to know all about the box and Sarah’s plans to paint it. She checked Sarah’s pumps, lines, and other medical paraphernalia before leaving us to work on the project.

It was not long before Sarah was assembling her jewelry box. After 25 minutes, the box stood on her table as she pondered the selection of paints. Another 30 minutes passed, and voila! A beautiful pink, white, and blue jewelry box had been born. Sarah lay back on her pillows and gazed at the work of art as she talked about what she would keep in it.

Then she picked up the yellow kit bag and noticed the wooden heart at 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. “Where did it come from?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

Sarah held the wooden heart close to her own heart and closed her eyes as if listening to something only she could hear. Then a tear rolled down her cheek. “My angel sent it to me,” she said. I had to hold back my own tears as an incredible sense of peace filled the room. I asked Sarah what she planned to do with her wooden heart. A small frown formed on her forehead. “No!” she said in a disapproving tone. Continuing to hold it close to her heart, she said, “It’s not a wooden heart, it’s a Woody Heart.” As she started to snuggle under her covers for a nap, 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 “Woody Hearts” became the name of the wooden hearts that still mysteriously appear in my wood shop. Since then, thousands of Woody Hearts have traveled inside Dances With Wood project kits into the lives of children and young adults all over America. They often ask, “What do I do with it?”

My response is a shrug. “What would you like to do with it?” I ask.