Alex Kulzer stacks hundreds of toys in bins and pushes them proudly through the entrance of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“I’m giving back to my community in a place that I grew up in,” says lifelong patient, 18-year-old Alex. “You never want to say, ‘I grew up in a hospital getting tests done,’ but I am happy that I can give back to them.”
It was an emotional, long-awaited moment. Alex was diagnosed at just 4 months old with hydrocephalus, a medical condition in which the fluid struggles to drain from the brain. Around 4 years old, he also started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy and placed under the care of Ena Andrews, M.D. Over the last 18 years, Alex has had multiple surgeries and spent many hours in the hospital.
“This is more than a hospital to me,” Alex says.
As a Boy Scout, he started a very special project called “Helping Heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a way to fulfill his Boy Scout duties while also giving back to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“This was a big roadblock in his project and the greatest achievement is his ambition to see it through,” says Renee Savic, B.S., CCLS. “We were in a world pandemic, something that I don’t think any of us alive today had ever seen, and this young man who has spent his life through therapies, surgeries and hospital stays—he never gave up and he kept contact with the hospital.”
Alex worked closely with Savic on the Child Life team to bring his vision to life.
“We spent a year together over the phone and even met in person at the hospital for several meetings to discuss this project,” Savic says. “His ambition to complete this project was just phenomenal.”
As he stands in front of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital logo at the hospital’s main entrance, he is surrounded by three handmade treasure chests, hundreds of presents and prizes for patients, his Boy Scout troop leaders, Savic, Alex’s neurosurgeon, Luis Rodriguez, M.D., his mom, Karen, and other staff who cared for him over the years.
“He always struck me as if he was not only a leader, so I wasn’t surprised he wanted to do this project, but also a protector,” Rodriguez says. “It’s been great to see how he changed and matured into an outstanding young man — and he still is so funny.”
The day of the donation drop-off was a full-circle moment. One that his mom was overjoyed to witness.
“It was a lot. It was very emotional,” Karen says. “It was very touching and I’m super proud that he put so much thought and planning into it. It was a good moment to live.”
Savic says these projects and donations are vital for the hospital, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year.
Community members can give back by visiting the
JHACH Wish List page, or call the Child Life team at 727-767-4323.
Dr. Rodriguez specializes in pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. In 2023, Dr. Rodriguez received the Armstrong Award for Excellence in Quality and Safety at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.
After general neurosurgery training at the University of Michigan, Dr. Rodriguez completed a Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship at the University of Utah. He joined our program in 2005. His practice encompasses the entire range of pediatric neurosurgical problems but his main area of interest is the pediatric spine. He is a charter member of the Pediatric Craniocervical Spine Society and is the director of our Pediatric Neurosurgical Spine Program.
He is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is fluent in Spanish. Dr. Rodriguez is board certified in Neurological Surgery and Pediatric Neurological Surgery.
*Presented by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital | Ena Andrews, M.D., is on the medical staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Inc. (“JHACH”), but is an independent practitioner who is not an employee or agent of JHACH.