Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Christmas season is upon us once again. As I unpacked the holiday decorations this year, I came across my copy of the letter, written by “Santa Claus” that I had given to a little girl several years ago. Her name was Cheyenne, and she was from Barberton, Ohio. Cheyenne was the daughter of a woman who had been married to my husband’s cousin. After their divorce she had remarried, and Cheyenne was the daughter from her second marriage. Our family often joked that we wished we could have divorced the cousin and keep his wife in the family instead…The first time I remember meeting Cheyenne was at a family funeral when she was about 4 years old. She was so sweet. Following the funeral we went to a relative’s house. Cheyenne was crawling around on the floor, acting like a puppy dog. We all laughed so hard at her coming around to all of us, barking and begging for food. It was a humorous ending to a sad day.And while I never did get a chance to know Cheyenne real well, I can tell you that the little of what I did know made an impact on me. In talking with her, you felt like you were talking to someone much wiser than their years, an old soul in a young body. In November of 2004, Cheyenne was diagnosed with 2 rare forms of leukemia. The prognosis wasn’t good. I wish I could explain why this disturbed me so much. I barely knew this child, yet I could think of little else but of how I could help her. I went to visit with her and her mother a few times after she was first diagnosed. Understandably, all Cheyenne really wanted to do was lie on her couch and watch her beloved Disney movies, especially the ones with the princesses.The place where I was employed during this time was having our holiday party and raffle. I was still recovering from a bad bout of pneumonia, and I asked my daughter to go with me to help me set up for the party. The gift baskets for the raffle were really nice, and some were pretty lavish. There were themed baskets for everything from various kinds of lottery tickets, to baskets for movie nights, pampering yourself, sports themes, culinary…just about any hobby or interest you could imagine. I bought my tickets, and proceeded to visit the baskets to make my choices on the ones I wanted to try to win. A lot of the women at work had been eyeing this one, big, pink, cardboard treasure chest for weeks that was filled with Barbie dolls and other things a young girl would like. Having no use for it myself, I passed it by. As I went around the room and deposited my tickets in various boxes, it suddenly dawned on me what I could do if I won that basket. With no self-doubt at all, I turned to Katie and told her, “I’m going to win that basket, and I’m giving it to Cheyenne.” Katie smirked at me, but I knew I was going to win. I didn’t have many tickets left, but I put my remaining ones into the packed pink box. It was one of the most popular gifts in the room, and the ticket box was stuffed full.Even though I had a strong feeling that I was somehow going to win the Barbie basket, I was still floored when they pulled out my ticket. I was crying on my way up to claim my prize. Word quickly got around the room as to why I wanted that gift. You could say I won by chance, but I think something bigger had a hand in that gift finding its way to me. The next thing that happened in the following days left me with no doubt of this.

I was still amazed at how I had won that basket. I ended up winning another one too, but I couldn’t tell you now what was in it. It didn’t matter. All I could think about was getting this to Cheyenne for Christmas. We exchanged some of the presents in the basket for more age-appropriate ones for her, and gave those to 2 needy children. People I worked with who had heard about the Cheyenne and the basket also added some gifts. I bought holiday stationary, and “Santa Claus” whipped up a letter to her with an explanation as to why the basket was being delivered via me and my husband early on Christmas Eve. All this was going through my mind as I was driving my car a couple of days later. I was listening to a program on the radio that Leeza Gibbons was hosting. Some of you may remember that she used to be a host on “Entertainment Tonight years ago.” During her radio show, this ad came on about how her show and Kmart were sponsoring a contest to give away $500 Kmart gift cards to people who needed help for the holidays, all they needed was for people to write to them to nominate someone…I thought that there was surely no way they could hear this child’s story and not give one to her. I wondered if I would be able to write it in a way that would make them understand that this child needed their help. I got on the Internet, and gave it my best shot… A couple of days later, I got this telephone call at work. It was a man asking me my name, and told me I would be getting a call 2 minutes later from Leeza Gibbons. I had won the first gift card that they were awarding from the contest. I can’t even begin to describe how I was feeling at this point. So many things were going through my mind. Leeza did call back, and our conversation was recorded to be play on her radio show later that night. We discussed the situation with Cheyenne. After that night, the whole listening audience knew about her too. The gift card arrived a few days later, and was added to the basket. On Christmas Eve, Jim and l delivered this bundle to one very special little girl. She was still lying on the couch, watching her movies on their TV. The procedures to halt the cancer had been started, and she was so weak. She looked at what she could from the basket, but quickly lay back down. We stayed for a while, and then left. The day after Christmas, Cheyenne’s much needed television broke. The gift card was used to buy a new one for her. You can say that this was all chance, and that it was a coincidence that these gifts just happened to make it to where they were most needed. And I can’t say that you would be wrong with your thinking. But I chose to believe there was something more going on then mere coincidences.

Cheyenne lost her fight with cancer on September 4, 2007.

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