Gretchie’s Gifts

Recently, I received a letter from a lifelong friend whom I haven’t seen in 10 years. Just the thrill of receiving an unsolicited note was a treasure, and I savored that surprise for hours before opening it to read what words she had shared with me on the page.

Receiving gifts from loved ones and strangers alike are just as powerful as what we might find inside. It is a validation of love, that someone out there is thinking of us, remembering us especially at a time when we are isolated, scared, and concerned about an invisible illness that threatens each and every one of us.

This is what I imagine children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses feel every day.

Alone, isolated: will people remember me?

If the Covid-19 Pandemic has taught us anything in this unprecedented year, it’s that isolation and the fear of illness is very real, and sometimes the remedy we need is a reminder we are not alone.

Since 1981, I have been working with children who have battled illnesses, supporting them any way I can by bringing a little happiness their way, particularly during the holidays. But this year, with the pandemic affecting so many of us, I am concerned our children in need will be forgotten.

It’s understandable. I know in my own family, there is great concern about staying safe – not just for those of us who are in a vulnerable category, but also for others whose livelihood requires wellness.

And, I know many of you have been touched by Covid-19 directly, and some with heartbreaking consequences. We have been separated from being with our elders; in some cases, we have said goodbye to them over cell-phone calls and final facetime moments.

We cannot forget that the children in our hospitals, battling illnesses that we fear ourselves, need our love and compassion more than ever.

Thanks to my partners at The JAR Writers’ Collective, we have breathed new life into my collection of seasonal stories and essays, featuring “Gretchie’s Gifts,” the story that kicked off our most recent annual drive for toys and art supplies for children spending the holidays in the hospital.

I am offering this ebook collection, which includes a never-before-published story, for free during this holiday season. All we ask is that you consider an Amazon Gift Card donation to our Gretchie’s Gifts campaign. Your donation of $5 or more will help us reach our goal of purchasing $500 of gifts for each hospital we are supporting. This is, by far, the safest way to make sure the children receive the same gifts and art supplies that we have given them in the past.

Our first goal is to help the children at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai and the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, but if we are fortunate enough to receive donations exceeding our $1,000 goal, we will use that money for other children in need at other Baltimore-area hospitals.

Unlike other campaigns or drives that need to use some of the funds for operational fees, 100% of your donation goes to the children. Our purchases made through Amazon will be delivered directly and safely to the hospitals, without any additional processing or delivery fees. The JAR Writers’ Collective has waived all fees for the publication of this collection to ensure the children receive every penny of your donation.

You can make your donation in two ways.

  1. If you prefer to mail a gift card that you purchase in a store, you can send it to Rus VanWestervelt/Gretchie’s Gifts, PO Box 19081, Baltimore, MD 21284.
  2. If you choose to purchase a gift card online, you can order it at Amazon and send it directly via email to me (rus.vanwestervelt(at)gmail(dot)com).

All donations, which are audited and verified, should be received no later than December 10, 2020, to ensure we can purchase gifts for the children in time for the holiday season.

Please know, as well, that the donations we provide the hospitals are used throughout the year.

The feeling we get when we receive that unsolicited letter or gift in the mail brings us such comfort, even when we are healthy but concerned about the unrelenting and invisible tendrils of Covid-19 swirling around us. Certainly, the letter I received from my friend continues to bring me smiles and energy during these challenging times. Just imagine the joy that you can bring to a child during the holidays whose fears are both real and life-threatening. We cannot neglect the children who never chose to spend the holidays in the hospital. As we have said so many times about Covid, these diseases know no boundaries; they don’t care who you are or what time of year it is.

We ask that you join us here with Gretchie’s Gifts to let them know they are loved, they are not forgotten, and they have a community of supporters rallying around them in their hours of greatest need.

I hope you enjoy this collection of stories offering faith and hope to all during this time of year, and I thank you for your donation in bringing that same faith and hope to our children in need.

Peace to you always, and in all ways,


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