Wildwood Crest man helping health care workers, patients talk with family during coronavirus

WILDWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A Wildwood Crest, New Jersey man is turning the personal loss of his father into a mission to help families amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Losing a family member is hard. Not being able to be there for your loved one when they are dying is even harder.

John Lynch experienced this first hand when he lost his father recently. He was in South Jersey while his father passed away from natural causes in Atlanta.

But with the help of technology, Lynch was able to use FaceTime-like many others during this virus-to say goodbye.

Before his father's death, Lynch, who runs the nonprofit "Lunch With Lynch Foundation," an organization that provides learning experiences to students in South Jersey, started a small effort called "Operation Connection: The iPad Project."

The effort aims to put gently used or new iPads in the hands of health care works and patients at local hospitals, including at Cape Regional Medical Center.

"I put out a Facebook post just saying, 'Hey would you guys help me help, you know, our local hospital. I'm trying to get somewhere between five or 10, iPads. And literally within an hour I had 20," Lynch told Action News.

Lynch said it was on the drive home from saying goodbye to his father that he decided to push this iPad effort even further.

"I'm going to try to keep this momentum going a little bit. I'm going to get into hospitals, and then I'm going to get them to senior care facilities. I thought, you know what a great way to honor my dad. He was a very philanthropic human being," said Lynch.

"Our families have told us how important it is and how much they really appreciate the opportunity to see their loved ones and talk to them," said Tom Piratzky, executive director of the Cape Regional Foundation. "We want to thank John and The Lunch With Lynch Foundation for their generosity."

Lynch says the iPads have helped in many ways since the virus broke out, including the opportunity for clergy to offer last rites.

Katie Hinchey, whose grandmother was a recipient of an iPad, was especially grateful.

"I am so grateful for John Lynch for donating iPads for Cape Regional patients," said Hinchey. "When grandmother was taken by ambulance, they took nothing with her. No phone. No list of numbers. No pigeon to carry messages. So, when I called her room this morning and the nurse asked if we could Facetime - all my fears disappeared."

"Operation Connection" has been a community-wide effort.

"I am only able to do this because of the generosity and the donations of an incredible caring community here. So, I'm just the bus driver. It's everybody that has paid it forward and helped us get this," he said.

According to Lynch, one mystery person even donated nearly $5,000 to his cause.

Lynch says over 60 iPads are in the process of being donated to area hospitals, but he hopes to increase his donation number.

Those wishing to help can learn more, HERE.

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