If you live anywhere near my little piece of the world, you may have heard about Gabriella Miller. She is in fourth grader in Leesburg who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of inoperable brain cancer last month. Gabriella was offered a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation and has chosen to go to Paris, France. We have all, sadly, heard this story many times: the horrific tale of a child getting cancer and the joy of a "wish".
Gabriella has put a creative spin on to this all too and common and heartbreaking story. She learned that Macy's has offered to donate one million dollars to the Make-A-Wish Foundation if they receive one million letters to Santa. Gabriella and her team of elves has launched a grass roots effort throughout her community that is reaching all over the nation.
The add-on twist is that Gabriella and her family are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas. After a letter-writing party at her school on Saturday, the family lit the first Chanukah candle on Saturday night (pictured on her Make-A-Wish Facebook page). Their message is that people of all faiths and beliefs can still pause and take a moment to be grateful while writing a letter to Santa (or whomever, there is a non-religious letter template if you prefer to go that route).
What has struck me about this amazing effort is the community involvement for this precious girl. I learned about the letter writing campaign via multiple unconnected people on Facebook, as well as in an email from a colleague who lives in Gabriella's community. Social media and technology are allowing their efforts to spread and multiply. It warms my heart to see social media working for positive and hope where so often hate and negativity are spread via the world wide web.
I love the fact that her friends, their families and the community can do something concrete to help both Gabriella and so many other children fighting the beast that is cancer. Writing a letter for hope and a "wish" is a great teaching moment for kids. It takes them out of an age appropriate self-centered existence and opens them up to those that are struggling, hurting and in need of more than just the latest toy on the market.
This concrete task is also a healthy distraction from the sadness and fear inherent in any cancer diagnosis. The kids that are getting involved with the project can feel helpful and productive. How many times have you heard of a tragedy and wanted to "help"? It is so nice for the kids to have this opportunity to pitch in and feel a part of something bigger and important.
I don't pretend to imagine what Gabriella and her family are going through, but I hope that they are feeling the support of their community throughout this horrid ordeal; they can rally around the letter counters and get some joy from the commitment of their neighbors both near and far as they endure the treatments and side effects of Gabriella's illness.
Coincidentally, I am friends with one of Gabriella's teacher. (Off topic tangent, but it is a great story. One of Gabriella's teacher and I grew up across the street from each other in Boston. I was there when she and her twin sister were born and I babysat them as they were adorable toddlers wreaking havoc in more ways than you can imagine. Private message me for some great stories from the late 70's).
This teacher has shared with me how supportive and caring the students have been. What a tough thing for these 9 and 10 year olds to have to endure, and yet, what an amazing idea to have the entire school involved in the letter writing?
My heart aches for Gabriella and her family. I am so glad that they have so much support and love from their community. If you want to write a letter the details are on this site or simply, just send your letter to:
Dear Santa- "Make-A-Wish with Gabriella"
20899 McIntosh Place
Leesburg, VA 20175