Anthony’s Sneakers

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RobRobert “Rob” Quinn ’86MS, who credits his many tools as a child life specialist and his desire to inspire a world of good to his education at Wheelock College, reflects upon one of his most impactful professional experiences with a little boy who was “as close to a biological child” as he has ever had. According to Rob, Anthony, who was born with AIDS, was a fighter. His twin, also born with AIDS, was not fortunate enough to survive past infancy. Until his death at the age of 5, Anthony spent his life in health care settings in a New York City hospital, where his room overlooked Central Park and where Rob enriched the lives of pediatric patients, making them smile and guiding them through their personal journeys. Rob remembers a particular summer afternoon he spent with Anthony in his hospital room.

From his window, Anthony saw and heard a horse galloping in Central Park and saw a plane fly overhead. He said that he wanted to go to the Park and see a horse gallop and a plane fly through the sky. Rob, who still gets goose bumps when he relives the experience through words, decided immediately that he would honor Anthony’s request. He was nearing the end of his journey, so the chief of pediatric infectious disease agreed that all measures should be taken to give him the highest quality of life until his final moment. For the outing, Rob needed a wheelchair, nurses, and clothing for Anthony — clothing being the challenge.

Anthony wore only hospital clothes and slippers, though he always talked about wanting light-up sneakers. Before Rob told Anthony that they would be going to the Park, he went to Gap Kids, where the workers graciously agreed to provide him with an outfit, including light-up sneakers. Rob, however, didn’t know Anthony’s shoe size. He returned to Anthony’s hospital room and found him slumped over in a wheelchair with a blanket. When he announced that they would be going to the Park the next day, Anthony immediately perked up. Rob told Anthony that he had to do one thing first, and that was to trace his foot. Anthony mustered all of his energy so Rob could trace his foot with a red crayon — a tool of the trade. He brought his drawing back to Gap Kids, where they were able to match it to Anthony’s shoe size perfectly. The excursion to Central Park was a success!

Sadly, Anthony died soon after his adventure with Rob. At his funeral, Rob put one light-up sneaker in Anthony’s casket and kept one for himself that, to this day, is propped above his bed.