Harry McGovern said his health is sitting at 110 percent. Judging from the excitement in his voice, the Mercer Island resident is putting that same amount of effort into his 501c3, The First Night Project.
About eight months ago, the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) freshman was in complete remission from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went on a Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington shopping spree at Macy’s in Bellevue to pick out concierge kit items.
He assembled 25 comfort kits/gift bags and delivered them to young patients in the oncology ward and the nursing staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital where he was treated.
Now age 15, McGovern is going full speed ahead with his project by raising approximately $22,000 from people on and off the Island at press time, distributing 23 more kits to Seattle Children’s and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma and currently producing 75 new kits.
Teenagers with new cancer diagnoses receive the kits, which include memory foam pillows, blankets, body wash, gift cards to streaming services and local eateries around the hospital areas and a letter from McGovern with his contact information, all placed into North Face backpacks. Assembly takes place in his home and the kits are stored there until delivery time.
“It’s between a 24- and 72-hour period that we want to get it to them. That’s the most vital time to get it to them because you’re, in these moments, at least when I was there, you’re terrified,” he said. “You’re confused, you’re kind of nauseous and you hate the world around you.”
McGovern said it’s been an uplifting experience meeting the recipients and their families and knowing that he’s making a difference in their lives. Recently, he’s had conversations with a patient who’s being treated for acute myeloid leukemia.
“It’s been really great being able to act as sort of a mentor to a degree or just kind of an adviser in some sense, because I know from my time in the hospital, that was something that I craved above all else,” he said.
Last month, McGovern discussed his project at a gathering of the newly formed Mercer Island Young Men’s Service Organization (MIYMSO), which features two of his school buddies Nick Mautone and Spencer Kornblum. Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington President and CEO Melissa Arias also spoke at the event.
MIHS moms Lisa Patacil and Michelle Cartmel formed the organization, which was launched in December of 2020 and has partnered with Food Lifeline, the Seattle Clemency Project and more. McGovern said he plans to partner with MIYMSO this summer for a fundraising car wash.
Cartmel said the three-pronged purpose of the all-inclusive MIYMSO is to give back to underserved communities in the greater Seattle area; for moms to spend quality time with their teenage sons outside of sports and other social obligations; and focusing on both serving the community and spending time together.
“I really enjoy being a part of this service group because I have a lot of blessings and want to give back and help others in any way that I can. And to be a part of this community is important, because it allows us to work in a group and see the potential we have together to make an impact,” Mautone said.
Kornblum touched upon learning from and partnering with his close friend McGovern: “Supporting Harry’s organization through MIYMSO gives us a tremendous way to come together to provide support and service to a broader community of people who really need the help, as well as supporting our friend.”
For more information on The First Night Project, visit https://www.thefirstnightproject.org/.
For more information on MIYMSO, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/miymso.