CHATHAM (CBS) – Harriet Bierwirth, who goes by “Hattie,” knew she wanted to do something for kids undergoing cancer treatment at the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
She and her family had received a fundraising letter written by a little boy named Max that made an impression on Hattie.
“I thought, this kid is probably my age. I know how he would feel being in that clinic, sick around Christmas of course and not being able to go home,” she told WBZ-TV.
Her first idea was to create a pen pal relationship between her schoolmates at Chatham Elementary School and young patients.
But not all of the young patients have the ability to write. There were also concerns about patient privacy.
So Hattie posed the question at Chatham Elementary School – What could they do for kids who surely needed a boost during the holidays?
Soon after, Mrs. Malinowski came up with the idea to make friendship bracelets. Hattie loved it.
“We sat out in the hall. We got to chat a bit and we made bracelets. We did it during recess or lunch,” Hattie explained.
Kids in every class and every grade made bracelets. Hattie and members of the school’s Kindness Club drove the effort. In all, they made more than 70 bracelets.
They celebrated with a Kindness Assembly and mailed the bracelets to the Jimmy Fund Clinic. Hattie recalls the trip to the post office with a big smile.
“It made me feel really happy!” She could already imagine how the gift would be received. “It’s going to make them feel that there’s somebody who loves them.”
Hattie knows what a gift of kindness means to someone undergoing cancer treatment. Her mom Lindsay Bierwirth is a three-time cancer survivor who has survived two bouts of breast cancer and stomach cancer.
“I remember when my mom got love from other families. It made me feel better too,” Hattie explained.
She says that seeing her mom so sick was hard.
“It helped me understand what cancer really is. It not just something that makes you feel queasy. It really hurts everywhere.”
Lindsay is now cancer-free. She says she gives thanks every day that she is alive and wants to spend her time helping others and raising two strong daughters. On the day that Hattie and her ten year-old sister Jane traveled with their father to Dana-Farber to drop off the last of the bracelets, Fred Bierwirth could not have been more proud.
“They both have completely taken initiative on their own. It wasn’t like Mom and Dad prompted, you should go do this. It’s pretty cool.”
Lisa Scherber, Director of Patient and Family Services at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, began giving young patients the bracelets as soon as the package arrived. The day Hattie and Jane delivered the final bracelets, Lisa met them outside the hospital with an “air hug” and a cheer of thanks.
“Chatham Elementary School knows what’s going on! You know how to make kids feel happy and supported and loved,” she told the girls.
The children undergoing cancer treatment at the clinic will likely never meet the students who made the colorful bracelets. But, Lisa says they appreciate the gesture and the spirit with which they were made.
“When you’re fighting this as a young child, you want to know that it’s more than your neighborhood that’s supporting you. And to know that someone got her whole school involved, that’s everything.”
Lisa also thanked the Bierwirths for a small cash donation the family took up at home (“We know it’s not a lot, “ Hattie explained. “But every little bit helps.”) and several brightly-painted shells bearing the world HOPE.
Hattie explained that Lisa and the patients were to write down their worries, put them in the shell and turn over the shell as a reminder that we can turn our worries into hope. Lisa was clearly touched.
“These gifts mean so much because it’s coming from her heart,” she said.
Hattie was also beaming at the thought of a child wearing one of the bracelets.
“When they get them, it might be like a Christmas present. That might be nice because sometimes the smallest things count like the biggest things ever.”