Teen’s holiday wish is gift for less fortunate

Andrew James

It’s been said that Christmas is the season of miracles. Foremost among the latter is the miracle of the Christ child’s birth. The Immaculate Conception. How about the “Miracle on 34th Street,” that 1947 flick starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, the unforgettable Edmund Gwenn as ole St. Nick and Natalie Wood as the young child. Send for it on Netflix, gather the family together and pass the popcorn. Then there’s the miracle, or rather miracles, of 2020.

Five year-old Jamie and his sister Annmarie, aged 4, (pseudonyms for obvious reasons), were really looking forward to Christmas and a visit from the bearded man in red who, they hoped, would bring each coloring books, crayons and puzzles along with a car for him and doll for her. But the chances of that happening were slim to none. Their single mother was unemployed, and while she did her best and showered them with love, her kids were lacking in those material possessions commonplace among most preschoolers. They lived day to day.

If having to survive in a challenging environment wasn’t bad enough, Jamie was suffering from a serious heart ailment.

Two days before Thanksgiving he underwent open-heart surgery in Syracuse and thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, it was successful.

But he’s not out of the woods. Unfortunately, a hole was discovered in his lung requiring further surgery. But thanks to the Gram Lorraine Children’s Christmas Program, Jamie and Annmarie will have those Christmas wishes granted. The former has brightened the Yuletide mornings of an estimated 30,000 children over the past 40 years, its generous sponsors providing their assigned children with a minimum of four items of clothing, new coats and boots and a toy, book or game of CHOICE. Kids who have so little deserve the one thing they yearn for so much. And the Kringle man has insured me that there will be stuff in his sack for the kids’ mom as well. (for more info on Gram Lorraine, check out hchungercoalition.org)

This holiday-decorated home at 629 Central Ave., Dunkirk, was submitted by Christina Calph.

Life hasn’t exactly been a bowl of cherries for my grandson, Andrew James. His quality of life has been diminished by not one, not two but five maladies. Autism-Neurofibromatosis (a disease of tumors referred to by some as Elephant Man’s Disease); P.A.N.D.A.S., two tick borne illnesses (Bartonella and Babesiosis); C.I.D.P. (similar to MS); and C.V.I.D. (an immune deficiency disorder making treatment of the aforementioned extremely difficult). Having to cope with the physical and emotional pain coming in the wake of the above was one thing, being subjected to the taunting and mocking of heartless classmates and mistreatment by some teachers at his first school was quite another. Thankfully, the bullying has been non-existent at his present school, New Hartford.

Andrew has more right than most to bitch and moan, but he doesn’t. Thanks again to the miracle of modern medicine, his illnesses have not prevented him from doing well academically (e.g. 96 in English) nor from maturing (he’s 13) into a loving, caring, empathetic young man. Last week while discussing Gram Lorraine’s relationship with the BOCES Migrant Worker Program, he asked if migrant workers were like slaves. “A step above,” I answered.

He was quiet for a while and then he offered this. “Pappy, do the children give their parents a present?” Before I answered, I recalled those fond memories as a child of watching my mom’s face light up when she opened my Christmas gift each year-often a Fanny Farmer box of chocolates — and wondered if that great holiday tradition was still in vogue. “I don’t know.”

“I’d like to give them something to give their parents,” he said. After catching my breath, I told Andrew how proud I was of him for such thoughtfulness. Then we discussed the what’s and how’s and evolved with the following.

This year 12 of the neediest parents in the MWP will receive a Christmas card signed by their children and containing a $50 gift card paid for by money Andrew James has saved over the years. He wants no recognition. “If the parents ask where the gift came from, what should we answer?” “Santa Clause” he responded as he finished rolling up the quarters. His concern for these parents who work so hard and long for so little, and his idea for brightening their Christmas mornings just a bit, have resulted in what I believe will become an annual tradition for Gram Lorraine.

Andrew’s selflessness would have warmed the cockles of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s heart. It was the great essayist, poet and philosopher who said-“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” My grandson has certainly left a trail.

The sponsors and coordinators of the Gram Lorraine Program wish you all a healthy, happy holiday season. And its founder asks that on Christmas Eve, after the laughter has faded, the fire in the hearth but burning embers and the room dark save for lighted candles in the window, take a moment to say a prayer for the well-being of the Jamie’s and Andrew James’ of the world. Before your amen, give thanks for the miracle makers who have given them, and so many others like them, that most precious of gifts-the gift of life. God Bless Us, Everyone.

Ray Lenarcic is a 1965 State University of New York at Fredonia graduate and is a resident of Herkimer.


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