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CANTON -- Patty Doyle is trying to make a difference in the world.
A lifelong parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Church, Doyle heads the Chernobyl Children Project, USA -- a non-profit organization that provides medical treatment and respite care for children from Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine living with the affects of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.
According to Doyle, the organization has its roots in her parish. In 1994, members of the St. John’s youth group traveled to Ireland as part of a cultural exchange. There they witnessed a special camp where children from the Chernobyl area were taken as a respite from their regular lives. The youth were so moved by the desperate conditions that the Chernobyl-area children faced, they began raising money to bring children to their parish the following year.
In 1995, St. John’s, together with five other parishes raised enough money to host two children. Doyle, who had spearheaded the fundraising effort, offered her home.
“Bringing two children into my home was unbelievable for my children,” she recalled.
The following year, 20 parishes joined efforts to bring more children from the Chernobyl-affected areas to Massachusetts. And thus the Chernobyl Children Project, USA was born.
Today the project brings 100 children to Massachusetts every July. Their ages range from eight to 13. While they are here, host families -- many still from St. John Parish -- take the children into their homes. For most of the children, it is the first time they have ever left their homes.
The organization arranges for the children to receive medical care during their visit. Fifteen area hospitals donate their services to monitor their health.
For some, these hospitals’ intervention is life saving.
“This region of the world is crippled -- the poverty is unimaginable,” Doyle said. “And yet this is also the first population to ever live their entire lives in contamination. There are no studies about what will happen to them, and there’s not even a stethoscope in some of the clinics there.”
According to Doyle, some children have had emergency surgery; others have had cancerous tumors removed. Still others have arrived believing they were dying of cancer, when in fact there was nothing wrong with them physically.
“I don’t believe in chance. I feel the project just entered into my life. I really think God wants me to do this,” Doyle declared.
“It’s so rewarding to know that you make a difference,” she said.
When not directing the Chernobyl Children Project, Doyle, together with her husband of 33 years, Michael, also tries to help in the parish as much as she can.
“In years past I have been president of the school association, I helped run the youth group, I served on the Parish Council and the Finance Council, but now I help out Father Doyle in whatever he needs me to do,” she said.
“St. John’s has been my parish my whole life and I absolutely love it,” added Doyle.