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ANN BAILEY: That's no small change

When I read the headlines or listen to the news I often shake my head at the horrific things that people do to one another. Those stories make me want to gather my family and move to the top of a mountain where we won't come in contact with anyone.

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

When I read the headlines or listen to the news I often shake my head at the horrific things that people do to one another. Those stories make me want to gather my family and move to the top of a mountain where we won't come in contact with anyone.

But just when I'm feeling that the state of the world is pretty hopeless, something happens that amazes me -- in a good way -- and restores my faith in humanity. Such an event occurred recently when schools across the United States participated in a program called Pennies for Patients, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Ellen, my daughter, agreed to be one of the heroes for Pennies for Patients and her picture was featured on a poster which told about the program. Ellen has leukemia and was excited to be part of the Pennies for Patients because it uses its money for research, education and helping children and families of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients.

Last year 800 schools in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota participated in the Pennies for Patients program and raised nearly $728,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

New friends

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This year Ellen was honored to hear from five schools that had chosen her as their heroes. Three were from our area and the other two are from a few hundred miles away. One area one was Larimore (N.D.) Elementary where Ellen attends school. Most of the children and all of the teachers at the school, which has an enrollment of about 200, know Ellen and responded generously to the Pennies for Patients fundraiser. Just as importantly, they have been caring and supportive during her cancer journey, which began nearly two years ago.

Another school in our area was Phoenix Elementary in Grand Forks. The small school not only raised money for the program during a two-week period in late February and early March, the first-grade students also wrote letters to Ellen and Rosebud. School Counselor, Denise Loftus Krejci, also sent Ellen a letter and thanked her for coming to speak at the school's Pennies for Patients kick-off event. Loftus-Krejci included several pictures of the Phoenix student council members and Rosebud, Ellen's dog, who also attended the kick-off.

Ellen also received a packet of letters from first-grade students in Tea, S.D., which is near Sioux Falls. The Tea school talked about the character counts theme of caring during February and raised money for the Pennies for Patients program, according to a letter from Linda Bohlmann, their school counselor and Kara Likeness, their counseling intern.

From the heart

Many of the letters from the Phoenix and Tea students include drawings of Ellen and Rosebud. The pictures and letters are heartwarming and Ellen was delighted to see and read them. I was, too. The kindness of the children and their concern for Ellen is uplifting.

Here's what one little girl from Phoenix wrote to Ellen: "Dear Ellen and Rosebud, thanks for comeing to Phoenix school. I like Rosebud. I hope you feel beder soon and I hope you can come aign to Phoenix school with Rosebud aign.

Meanwhile, a first-grade boy from Tea wrote: Dear Ellen. My favrite color is red. My favrite subject is Art. I am in first grade like you. What is your favorite color? What is your favrite subject? Are you 7 or 6?

Overwhelming kindness

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Not only do the letters restore my faith in the goodness of people, I also am heartened because I know that there are adults involved in the letter writing and fundraising, too. Besides the teachers, counselors and other school staff who organize the students' letter writing and fundraising projects, there also are parents who are supporting it by sending money along with their children to school or encouraging them to use some of their allowance to contribute to the Pennies for Patients.

This is just one of the many kindnesses which Ellen and our family have been the recipients of during the past two years. We also have had wonderful support from our community, from co-workers at my husband, Brian's, job and my job and from the doctors and nurses who are taking care of her. We have also received letters, gifts and e-mails from people we've never met, a testament to the kindness of strangers.

We are grateful beyond words for the thoughtfulness and are humbled by peoples' kindheartedness. The things that people have done to help Ellen and our family during this past two years may not make the headlines, but it is forever written in our hearts.

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