A Thanksgiving Story

As this year draws to an end it brings with it the opportunity to give thanks for all of our blessings. It allows us to tell the ones we love that they are loved. And if we are fortunate enough, it provides us the opportunity to do something nice for others we may not even know.

For my friend Tom McCormack, everyday is thanksgiving day and everyday is a day that he uses to try to make someone else’s lives a little better. I have known Tom for several years now and I continue to be amazed at the time he spends, the energy he exerts and blessings he brings to others. He feels he is fully compensated when he receives a simple smile from a child or a hug from a parent whose child has been helped.

A week ago Tom called me and asked if I could help him with some photos and videos he wanted to package. He is working to see if he can obtain help, from the Shriners Hospital for Children, for a child he had found needing assistance.

I said I would help him and went and picked up the photos and videos so I could record them on a DVD for him. When I saw the photos, I could not keep a lump from creeping up into my throat.

I told Tom, I would be interested in talking to the little girl and her mother so that more awareness would be made of the needs here in Panama. Tom asked for permission for me to visit the family. Tom and I went to their house on November 25th (Thanksgiving Day in the US).

Let me introduce you to Sissi.

Sissi is nine years old and when she was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and legs. Probably some of her problems occurred in the womb, maybe some at delivery and some after birth.

After birth, Sissi had been treated by physicians in David and, as I understand it, to try to get the legs to grow correctly, one physician broke the bones. I am sure follow up care was difficult to obtain because this type of problem is not inexpensive,

The mother suffered because the father said he didn’t want to see the child anymore and left. On one visit to the hospital, the mother was accused of breaking Sissi’s legs and the original physician had to confirm that this was not done by the mother. How embarrassing and frustrating that must have been.

Another sad thing that I learned during the visit is that the public school has chosen to segregate Sissi from the rest of the students because of her limitations. I can assure you from my brief time with Sissi, there is nothing wrong with her mind. And to the contrary of the local school administration’s thinking, the rest of the students would benefit from her endearing smile and eternal happiness.

Here is a photo showing the distorted legs that need to receive proper care. What can be done now is not known, but Tom has taken on the challenge to see that the appropriate people are contacted and proper examination and determination of what is possible is learned.

The following is a video that Tom took in the Gymnasium where his containers are being stored. Sissi was shy and really didn’t want to show Tom her special skill and he convinced her to go the the far end of the gym where no one else could see.

Tom said she wheeled her chair the the end of the gym with him and hoped out of the chair, where Tom took this video.

Here is a photo of Tom, Sissi and Sissi’s sister.

This time of year brings out the best and the worst in people. Some people use the time for taking and some use the time for giving. There will be many opportunities for anyone living in Panama to take the giving side, because there are more people in need than anyone can imagine.

If you want to know more about Tom and Linda McCormack’s foundation, visit the foundation’s website.

All photos and videos in this post are the property of Tom McCormack.

15 thoughts on “A Thanksgiving Story

  1. Hola a Don y todos!

    De acuerdo, debemos agradecer cada día. Tom & Linda Mc Cormack: Muchísimas gracias por ayudar a los necesitados. El caso de Sissi es conmovedor. ¿Cómo se llama la escuela que la discrimina? Todos debemos saberlo porque en Panamá la inclusión es o-bli-ga-to-ria. Así mismo: compulsory!


    Hello Don and all!

    Agree. Thanksgiving is every single day. Tom & Linda Mc Cormack: Thank you very much for helping the people in need. Sissi´s case is extremely sad, pathetic. What´s the name of her discriminating school? We should all know for inclusion is compulsory in Panama. Period.


  2. What a precious young girl. A big thanks to Tom and Linda for all they have been doing for the less fortunate in Chiriqui for many years.

  3. What a beautiful little girl and she possesses such spirit. Nothing will hold her back and hopefully something can be done to improve the condition of her legs by the Shriners.

  4. Don Ray,

    Please make sure that Tom knows that Abou Saad Shrine is located in Panama City in the old Albrook Officer’s Club building. Abou Saad sends dozens of children to Shrine hospitals in the US for treatment at no cost to the family every year. Give him my email address and I will provide him with phone numbers.


  5. Hi Mike,

    As with many Panamanian families, they don’t live with abundance. I am planning on putting together a Christmas package with some small gifts and food stuffs and taking it to them.

    Their big need is related to some assistance for Sissi and Tom will give me feedback when he knows more.

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