Nurses's Victory a Magical Moment Values Award Winner Takes Homeless Kids to Disney World

Miami Herald, The (FL)
Edition: Final
Page: 1B

Bessie Garrett is so accustomed to brightening other peoples' lives that when she won $5,000 for her community service, she knew what she would do: Give it back.

On Wednesday, she took 41 homeless children and 15 of their mothers to Walt Disney World for two days of fun. Garrett, using her full award, picked up the tab for all of them. ``When she got up to accept the award she said, `I want to use this to send some kids to Disney World, and we just said, `Oh, my!' '' said Kimberly Green, director of the Green Family Foundation of Miami, which gave her its American Values Award in April. The United Way also funded the award.

`It's something that's needed,'' Garrett said of the trip. The group left from the Miami VA Medical Center, 1201 NW 16th St., and will return Friday.

Garrett is a nurse in the immunology section there and specializes in reaching out to those who may need the center's services. She was nominated for the $5,000 award by the center's director, Thomas C. Doherty. Those who know her and her community service were not surprised by Garrett's decision to spend her award money on others.

``Bessie is a very dedicated, committed employee who devotes all her spare time, all her leave time, going out, seeking out those who need help,'' Doherty said. ``She's done so much for people who have little or nothing.''

Garrett often runs toy drives at work, Doherty said, and she tries to encourage veterans who need help to come to the center.

``Our other employees have really rallied to her,'' Doherty said.

The children and women going on the trip became acquainted with Garrett through her work with the Miami Rescue Mission, where she works with women who need shelter or have been battered, said Susan E. Ward, a VA spokeswoman.

Ward, who has known Garrett for several years, said her work not only takes place at the VA center, the Miami Rescue Mission and other homeless organizations like the Camillus House, but also on the streets.

``She's worked to gain the trust of the people on the street; they will protect her to the end,'' said Ward, who said Garrett will look in parking lots and under bridges to educate others about drugs and the dangers of AIDS.

As the group prepared to leave Wednesday, the children and mothers washed Garrett with hugs.

``I wanna see Mickey Mouse,'' said Ivey Allen, 7, who was taking the trip with his twin brother, Ivory, and their mother, Iris.

The group surrounded Garrett for a picture before boarding the bus. Dressed in matching canary-yellow shirts emblazoned with the motto, ``Smile With a Child,'' some mothers lifted their children over their heads so everyone could be seen. The sign held in front of the group had a large smiling sunshine on it, and a small quote:

``Bessie says, `These children need to be kids for a day.' ''

Photos by JON KRAL / Herald Staff DISNEY-BOUND: Bessie Garrett decided to use her $5,000 prize on a two-day trip to Walt Disney World for 41 homeless children.

DEVOTED: Bessie Garrett is described as a `very dedicated, committed employee' who devotes all her spare time to seeking out those who need help.

Correction: The Herald incorrectly reported on Thursday that Bessie Garrett, a nurse at the Miami VA Medical Center, used a $5,000 award that she received to send 41 homeless children and their mothers on a trip to Walt Disney World. The Green Family Foundation, a Miami charity, picked up the tab for the trip. Garrett made the arrangements.