FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Larry Stanfield has carried the nickname “The Candy Man” for the past 25 years because of his regular rounds at local hospitals handing out candy to nurses on each floor.
Now, Stanfield is on the receiving end.
He was hospitalized this week at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence after suffering a stroke. Nurses from the first floor to the sixth wrote “get well” and “thank you” cards that were delivered Tuesday morning to Stanfield’s room with flowers and balloons.
Stanfield laughed and smiled as nurses he often saw on his candy trips to the hospital stopped by to see him.
“I appreciate it very much,” he said of the visits. “I love y’all.”
It all started more than a quarter century ago with a large bag of peppermints Stanfield purchased for his father during a hospital stay. His father had complained of a dry throat so Stanfield went to the hospital gift shop to buy hard peppermint candies, but all they had was a large bag.
He took his purchase back to his father’s room.
“He said, `Good God almighty,” Stanfield said, surrounded by nurses and his daughter and daughter-in-law. Then his father told him he’d never finish such a large bag of candy, and suggested Stanfield share with the nurses.
He did it that day, and many days since.
His daughter, Cherhonda Gilliam, said her father carried a bag full of assorted candies with him everywhere. Anytime he was near a hospital, he’d stop and pass out the sweet treats.
He has disbursed his candy at local hospitals, but also hospitals in Birmingham where he’s been a patient.
Stanfield said he spent $100 a week on candy.
Gilliam, who was moved to tears at the gesture by the hospital staff, said her father has had 18 back surgeries, open heart surgery, rotator cuff surgery and now two strokes, so he’s spent a substantial amount of time in hospitals.
“My daddy truly loves the nurses,” Gilliam said. “He feels like they are over-worked and underappreciated.”
Cathy Russell, nursing supervisor at Eliza Coffee Memorial, said any nurse who’s worked for an extended time at the hospital knows “The Candy Man.”
“It was really uplifting to see him because he is such a happy person,” Russell said. “He brought joy with him.”
Stanfield makes sure to carry the types of candy he knows certain nurses and a few doctors prefer.
Until a few years ago, he carried his candy stash in a shoebox inside a plastic grocery sack. Now, he has a black canvas bag with “The Candyman” embroidered on it in red, a gift from his grandchildren a few Christmases ago.
“He gives a little piece of his heart with each piece of candy he gives away,” Gilliam said. “He thinks if a little piece of candy will bring a ray of sunshine into, their day, it is worth it.”
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