Operation Chocolate for Children turns dream to reality

Last fall, Matthew Parvin, fellow and resident physician, child and adolescent psychiatry, and his family suffered a devastating loss. Parvin's 21-year-old brother Mike died following an auto accident overseas.

Shortly before the holiday season, Parvin dreamed that his brother was in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans handing out Hershey's chocolates to children. The dream stayed with Parvin, and he decided to do what he could to make the visions a reality.

Parvin talked with his supervisor, Christopher Peterson, Department of Psychiatry. Petersen contacted an executive he knew at The Hershey Co. Within a few weeks, the company agreed to donate 7,000 pounds of candy.

Other contacts in the medical center led Parvin to the Children's Miracle Network affiliate in New Orleans, which in turn provided connections to fire and police departments to distribute the candy to children. Several weeks later, the New Orleans criminal sheriff's office, police department and fire department, the St. Bernard's policy department, and the Jefferson Parish police and fire departments all agreed to help.

The last piece in the puzzle was finding a refrigerated truck to get the candy to New Orleans. A team of medical center and College of Medicine employees called and sent e-mails to their contacts to find transportation. Shortly after being contacted, Teamsters Local 776 agreed to fund a driver and donate a refrigerated truck to make the delivery.

It's estimated that up to 70,000 children in New Orleans received candy from the special delivery.

"Please forward our thanks to all involved in Operation Chocolate and let them know that the schools truly enjoyed the treats," wrote Gina Lorio, special events manager at Children's Hospital, New Orleans. "It is during times like these that we truly rely on the support of our friends such as yourself to help our community rebuild our lives for a fresh start."

"Our students are enjoying the thoughtfulness of the many people who understand the hardships the families of this area have experienced," wrote Carolyn Sandra O'Hare, principal, Jefferson Elementary School, which is one of a number of schools to receive the chocolate treats.

Parvin is grateful for the many co-workers who helped make Operation Chocolate successful. "It was the collective efforts of the caring human beings in this project that really made it successful and, in a way, that truly represents our town of Hershey," said Parvin. "This Chicagoan is now truly convinced that Hershey is the sweetest place on earth."

Many employees were involved in making Operation Chocolate for Children a reality, including: Peterson; Lorio; Jen Groff, University Development; John Kirkwood, Department of Psychiatry; Marta Murray, University Development; and Thomas W. Uhde, chair, Department of Psychiatry, and director, Penn State Hershey Neuroscience Research Institute.

Last Updated March 19, 2009