Marissa Norwood is among the young patients who have received a package from Quilts for Kids in recent days.
The 12-year-old, who lives in Akron, Ohio, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007 and was the subject of a recent Inquirer story written by her aunt, Melanie Burney, a member of the newspaper's editorial board. Quilts for Kids was one of the many organizations and individuals whose response to the story was swift and sure.
"I told 'Rissa about the quilt as soon as they called and she said, 'That's a blankie, right?' " said Rosalyn Norwood, Marissa's mother. "She was so excited."
After making sure the family would welcome a quilt, and asking about Marissa's tastes, Quilts for Kids sent her a quilt in her favorite colors, pink and green. Those are the colors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the sorority of which her aunt, her mother, and her grandmother are members.
"It's like it was made with Marissa in mind," Norwood said, "Unofficially, she's an AKA."
]Norwood wrote back to Quilts for Kids, "Your organization is truly wonderful."
Burney wrote of how the seventh grader, who endured multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, opted to give away the bulk of a grant she received from the Make a Wish Foundation. She bought gifts for a shelter for homeless and battered women and an animal shelter, and for other seriously ill children who will be spending the holidays in hospitals.
Helena Quigley of Wayne, who lost her own 5-year-old daughter to a brain tumor in 2006, wrote this note:
"I think these children do have the wisdom of 90-year-olds, knowing that their time on this earth is limited. These sick children teach us so much about giving back and being thankful for all the things we take for granted every minute of every day." Quigley founded the research foundation Miriamskids.org, in her daughter's memory.
Marissa is in hospice care at home now.
Both mother and child were deeply touched by the response of Inquirer readers.
"They don't even know us," said Rosalyn Norwood. "But one sent me a nice card and a check that made me cry. Another sent a prayer cloth. Still another sent a handmade card - it is so, so cute. You can tell it's from a little kid."
"I have heard from so many people," she said in a telephone conversation Monday. She mentions a 5-year-old named Jed from South Africa who sent a photo of himself with his dog, and from a 40- year-old who called Marissa his hero.
"It's a darn shame there are that many people that have walked in my shoes," Norwood says. "I wish there were far less."