By Michael Sewall
Everyday Inspirations is a series that shares stories about people in Patch communities across the country who inspire others through their work, or people who have faced extraordinary situations and grown from them. They have been nominated by others in the community who have been inspired by their work.
Last month 10-year-old Rialee Jacoby of Warminster, PA, completed her last round of chemotherapy. After nine months of treatments, transfusions, surgeries and hospital stays, there's no evidence of the Ewing Sarcoma, a pediatric bone cancer that attacks the bone tissue with aggressive tumors.
But if Rialee gets her way, she'll be going back to the hospital soon—to continue bringing joy to others there.
During one of her stays at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Rialee overheard employees talking about how certain toys or art supplies couldn't be reused after children used them. The hospital had to replace these items frequently and relied on donations entirely.
"She’s always been very caring and very concerned about others," said her mother, Valerie Jacoby. "I never thought, her being in that situation, that she would take it as far as she did. Now she’s not finished. She’s still coming up with ways to figure out how to help."
With the help of her Facebook page, Rally for Rialee, she and her family organized toy collections for the hospital. They put boxes in various places around town and got help from her school with writing letters to local businesses that solicited donations.
Rialee's spirits were always high during her hospital stays, Valerie said. She would remember things that doctors and nurses said they liked and get excited to pack for her next stay. One doctor talked about liking dogs, and Rialee made sure to take funny photos of her dogs and bring them to the hospital.
Now that she's out, Rialee is looking to raise money in hopes of giving gift cards to children who were in the hospital like her so they can enjoy a day of shopping when they're out. She's also asking that instead of getting presents for her upcoming birthday, she wants donations to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation in honor of Gavin, a boy she knew from the hospital who died.
"We just don’t think of these things until it happens to you," Valerie said. "She wouldn’t have thought of these other kids unless she went through this. She’s not angry it happened to her, she said she’s actually grateful for the experience. We couldn’t be more proud of her."
Teddy Bear Care
That experience strengthened Rialee, but in other cases children are inspired by their families to turn their inherent generosity into action.
Magnolia and Lily Powell, ages 12 and 9, were inspired to start the Teddy Bear Care organization out of Channahon, IL, after their grandmother JoJo died a couple of years ago of pancreatic cancer.
Tom Powell, the girls' father, described Magnolia as "an old soul," who spent lots of time with her grandmother as a kid, so her passing made Magnolia want to give back more. She shaved her head for St. Baldrick's, raising more than $1,500 for childhood cancer research, and both sisters began writing Valentine's Day and Christmas cards to people in local nursing homes.
The girls then started Teddy Bear Care, which in its first two and a half months collected 160 stuffed animals to donate to the nearby hospital for Christmas. After that, they wanted to keep collecting throughout the year.
"We feel good just giving back," Magnolia said. "It just feels good doing something right. We've learned that you don’t always have to receive, but it’s always good to give."
Sisters Giving Hope
Generosity might seem more natural or apparent in children, but they don't always have the means or the know-how to get involved. Palatine, IL resident Kayli (9) and her 7-year-old twin sisters Cassidy and Georgia have proven that starting small can lead to something bigger than ever imagined.
Their mother, Dana Roe, said she and her husband exposed the kids to volunteerism as young as 3 years old with things like the Special Olympics and the Palatine Jaycees. They've even been trick-or-treating for canned goods to donate to a food pantry for years now.
"It worries me that my kids could take the wrong path," Roe said. "So my biggest goal was to stay on a path with sports and school and tutors and violin. It’s very important to give back."
It was evident that giving spirit had been instilled in the girls on Christmas in 2012, when they received different art kits and decided they wanted to make bracelets to sell and donate the money to people who needed it.
The girls and their parents wrote letters to everyone they knew, and they were flooded with requests. Sisters Giving Hope was born. Since creating the organization, they've found different people and causes to support along the way. That's included starting a college fund for a 3-year-old who recently lost his father to ALS, and supporting Rosie, a girl Kayli's age who has an inoperable brain tumor.
"Just being exposed to that, the kids have changed tremendously," Roe said. "They value what people go through more. They say they’re trying to inspire people to give back."
For many children who volunteer, the best part is the friends they make. Kayli and Rosie have become best friends since they met through Sisters Giving Hope, and recently Kayli shaved her head at St. Baldrick's to show support and raise money.
In just about one year, Sisters Giving Hope has raised more than $8,500 to donate to various causes, and they've started to inspire other kids to get involved. They often have parties at their house where children can come to help make bracelets and other items that Sisters Giving Hope sells to raise money.
Getting involved with fundraising can also help kids learn a lot about business. Sisters Giving Hope was invited to a conference for entrepreneurial children in the Chicago area, and they've attended corporate meetings to explain what they do. This weekend, they're the main benefit at a local charity event, where they will raise money for the family a veteran who was hit by a car.
"They have changed the lives of so many and have learned and gained friendships from each person and family they have touched," Roe said. "They've learned that it is hard work and anything is possible if you try. They've learned that no matter what age you may be, you can change the life of another. They've learned the importance of giving. They've learned to inspire children that they can do what they are doing."
TELL US: What are children in your town doing to give back and inspire others? Share stories in the comments!