Garner, 12, gives his presents to hospital

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thompson Middle School student Rob Garner, center, presents his birthday presents to Children's Hospital in Birmingham. (Contributed/Howard Holmes)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Alabaster resident Carla Garner sat down with her son, Rob, before his 12th birthday in late March, she was shocked at his response when she asked about his birthday present wishes.

Instead of presenting his mother with a long list of present ideas, Rob’s thoughts immediately turned to those less fortunate than him.

“Right before his birthday, we were sitting in his bedroom and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday,” Carla Garner said. “He looked around his room, and he said ‘I don’t need anything. I am so blessed that I have everything I need.'”

“I already had everything I would ever want,” Rob said.

Instead of asking for gifts for himself, Rob requested his parents and visitors to his birthday party bring a gift to donate to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

At Rob’s party, guests brought everything from coloring books to action figures, which Rob collected before gathering everything in a wagon and pulling it into the Children’s Hospital lobby.

“He got to meet with several of the clowns at Children’s, and they were all extremely excited to see him show up with a wagon full of toys,” Carla Garner said.

The clowns then taught Rob a few magic tricks and took him to a patient common area to demonstrate them while the clowns distributed the gifts to the children in the hospital.

“I know that some of the kids get lonely because they don’t have anyone to visit them,” Rob said. “All the kids said ‘Thank you,’ and they really enjoyed it. It wasn’t hard for me to give my presents away at all.”

While he was there, Rob interacted with the patients for more than two hours, and was disappointed when it was time to leave, Carla Garner said.

“He said ‘Can’t I just stay overnight?’ I said ‘No, I’m sorry. You’ve got to go to school in the morning,'” she said. “He was thrilled to death to get to spend time with the kids at the hospital.”

After visiting with the patients, Rob was disappointed he was not yet old enough to volunteer at the hospital. However, he has already pledged to join the volunteer force as soon as he turns 14, Carla Garner said.

“He has already talked about the wanting to be a physical therapist when he grows up,” Carla Garner said. “He has a caring heart, and he genuinely wants to help others.

“We have been very blessed, because we have not really had to teach him the importance of doing things for others,” she added. “He is already doing it.”