A Local Woman Is Making Hospital Stays a Little Brighter

Bonnie Garaventi donates toiletries to families at MGH for Children.


Gift bags from Garaventi/Photo provided

When Jean Sheehy’s late daughter, Megan, was in treatment for bone cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children (MGHfC), she would often find herself staying at the hospital for days at a time. These stretches were emotionally taxing, to be sure, but they also came with another, more unexpected, difficulty.

“Sometimes we would be there for longer than we had planned, and it’s quite devastating,” the Marblehead resident remembers. “You’re out of your normal life pattern. You have a tiny little bathroom that you can take a quick shower in, but it’s sterile. It’s very, very sterile.”

When Sheehy recounted that memory to Bonnie Garaventi, a friend and fellow Marblehead resident, Garaventi immediately knew how she could help. The aromatherapy student had been making her own beauty products and toiletries for months, and had more than she knew what to do with—until, that is, Sheehy sparked her imagination.

Each month, Garaventi stops by MGHfC to donate 30 blue mesh shower bags stuffed with homemade soaps, lotions, bath salts, and more. Each one is adorned with a label from LoveStrong, an organization Sheehy founded in memory of her daughter; an illustration of a dragonfly, a symbol that was meaningful to Megan; and a note from Garaventi. It’s an easy but meaningful way, Garaventi says, to make an incredibly difficult time for patients and families a little brighter.

“In my mind, this is a really small thing, because it’s a joy for me,” Garaventi says. “Jean helped me channel it to a place where it would be a joy for other people, too.”

And the impact of the gifts shouldn’t be downplayed, Sheehy stresses. Getting a care package like Garaventi’s, she says, “Would have been this amazing little sanctuary in the midst of all the tough stuff that’s going on.”

It’s also a wonderful way to honor Megan, who died in 2014, just two days after her 14th birthday. The athletic teenager helped others throughout her entire life, even organizing a fundraiser for Angels Above, a charity that improves the lives of children at MGHfC, while undergoing treatment herself.

Today, that altruism lives on, thanks to LoveStrong and Garaventi’s monthly gifts.

“Her spirit was that she needed to help someone else,” Garaventi says. “I feel like she’s in the room with me.”