When G.W. Bailey, the star of TNT's The Closer and Major Crimes, scheduled a tour of the pediatric oncology unit at the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, he never expected to be in the middle of a rescue operation.
Bailey, executive director of Sunshine Kids, had arrived at the children's hospital Thursday afternoon to promote a fundraising event for his national organization benefiting children with cancer, when he noticed a red Hyundai Sonata half-submerged in one of the hospital's retention ponds.
80-year-old hospital volunteer Margaret Schaffer had tapped the accelerator while parking and drove her car over the curb, past a thick pipe, and straight into the pond.
G.W. Bailey poses with Margaret Schaffer. Mckenzie Cassidy.
"I must've hit the accelerator when I was parking. I feel stupid," said Schaffer.
Schaffer exited the car and waded through the shallow water to reach the pond's edge, just as Bailey and his staff from Sunshine Kids parked. Bailey immediately responded to the emergency and waited with Schaffer until paramedics arrived.
"She got out of the car and started walking, and I said, 'Can you walk?' and she said she could," said Bailey. "So I didn't have to jump in after her."
Paramedics asked if they could take her vitals but she declined, stating that she felt fine. She had no visible injuries and said she was more concerned about the two newly-purchased air conditioners she had in the trunk of the car.
"I was just happy she was walking," said Bailey, who left the parking lot and continued with his scheduled tour of the oncology unit.
A children's hospital staff member later said it was good fortune that Schaffer crashed into the shallow pond, because rescuing her from the other pond would've been difficult because of its depth and resident alligators.
Bailey, a veteran actor with roles on M*A*S*H, St. Elsewhere, and in the films Police Academy and Short Circuit, will appear in An Evening on Broadway on Nov. 17 at The Colony Golf & Country Club in Bonita Springs to raise funds for Sunshine Kids, along with friend and Major Crimes co-star Tony Denison.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, Bailey took four pediatric oncology patients to the Naples Zoo in a limousine, where they took a boat to the monkey island and fed the giraffes.
For more information about Sunshine Kids or local events benefitting the organization, visit sunshinekids.org.