The "Devil Dogs" were angels in disguise Thursday, and they were looking out for the youngest patients at Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital.
The Marine Corps League Military Order of the Devil Dogs visited the hospital on Thursday to deliver a slew of toys -- baby dolls, stuffed dinosaurs, rabbits, dogs, and bears -- and to present the CAMC Foundation with another gift for kids in their care -- a $23,000 donation.
"We do loads of fundraising for Women and Children's Hospital, and this donation will be directed to the NICU, the children's cancer center and other places where it might be needed, like our child life program, which helps kids through the process of being here," said Gail Pitchford, president of the CAMC Foundation.
The MODD is celebrating its 75th "growl" -- or anniversary meeting -- this year, according to Leanna Dietrich, the 56th chief Devil Dog. The group is in town for its yearly convention, held in conjunction with the Marine Corps League's, of which all Devil Dogs are also members.
Children's hospital donations are something Deitrich said the MODD has been doing for more than 30 years. As this year's MODD convention was to be held in Charleston, the MODD selected CAMC Women and Children's as its donation recipient.
"Every year we make a donation from our special hospital fund, or 'Passport Fund,' and that money goes to the local hospital of our choice," she said. "When we go to a meeting or a growl, we get a stamp in our 'passport,' and it costs a dollar. Every dollar that is raised through our membership by going to local or state meetings goes to that fund, and when we get to the convention, whatever's in that fund goes to the hospital."
This year's gift of $23,000 is the second-largest donation the MODD has given to a hospital, just a few thousand short of last year's record-breaking $26,000 donation made to a children's hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"This is the second-largest donation the Devil Dogs have ever given to an institution, so it's good for Charleston," said Hershel "Woody" Williams, a Fairmont native, MODD member and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
For Raye White, the chair of the CAMC Foundation, the donation is one that resonates with her. White's granddaughter, born just after New Year's, had to spend time in CAMC Women and Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
"You don't know something like this will ever touch your life, and then you're in a situation and it's really scary," White said. "They took her away from the delivery, and we couldn't touch her, couldn't hold her. We were scared to death."
White's granddaughter has since been discharged from the hospital and is doing well, she said -- something that was made possible, in part, by donations like the one given by the MODD.
"It's always humbling and it always leaves you in awe of the generosity of people," Pitchford said. "Especially when people come out of the woodwork to give $23,000 -- even if it was $23, when it's someone who has never given before, it's great. I'm always amazed at people's generosity."
Reach Lydia Nuzum at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.