Sarah Palacios sat alone at her computer one evening in Corpus Christi. She was stressed. Sarah had just received confirmation that her 7 year-old niece, Sarah Bailey, would have open heart surgery early the following week. Her sister, Brenda would have to take extended leave from work to care of her daughter, effective immediately. Funds were low. Christmas was right around the corner.
Sarah started typing on her Facebook page. ‘My niece is having open heart surgery next week. I want to host a fundraiser for her. If anybody could give me advice on friendly venues, I would really appreciate it. My niece is the sweetest girl in the world. I have to do something. Thank you.’
With limited reach on Facebook, no venue to host a fundraiser, no large group to attend, and only a glimmering hope she could make a difference, Sarah published an idea.
Two hours later she received a promising response. One of Sarah’s friends passed her to Andrea Emmanuel, an admin for the Lonestar Chive Chapter. Sarah had heard of theCHIVE but had never met Andrea. Andrea was very familiar with Corpus Christi and quick to offer up potential venue locations. More importantly, Andrea passed Sarah’s story along to Gavin Neill, who helped run the Costal Bend Chive Chapter in Corpus Christi.
It was late. Gavin didn’t care. He got ahold of his friends at Dewey’s Beer Garden in Corpus Christi. Dewey’s said they’d love to host the fundraiser for Sarah. Then Gavin got the word out to the Costal Bend Chivers. Andrea was doing the same with the Lonestar Chivers.
Only a few hours after Sarah published a heartfelt hail mary to the internet, the fundraiser venue was set and 500 people were attending an event to support a little girl they didn’t know. It even had a name, Open Your Heart for Sarah. Amazing. Sara Palacios sat alone at her computer and smiled.
Meanwhile here at theCHIVE, we were gearing up for #RAKit week. Thousands of Chivers would be RAK’ing Christmas presents to complete strangers in the Chive community. We knew many of the Chivers would be purchasing their Secret Santa gifts from theCHIVERY. In the spirit of RAKit Week, we wanted to pay the proceeds from RAKit forward to somebody special… but we didn’t know who just yet.
Our community manager, Dave Welch, put the feelers out. He contacted all the Chive Chapters in Texas and asked if they knew of a sick child that could use some help this Christmas – Any and all ideas welcome.
Candidates flooded in from all corners of Texas but one name quickly rose to the top of the list, a little girl named Sarah Bailey.
An echocardiogram had recently revealed an anomalous left coronary artery that required emergency heart surgery. We were told Sarah was in the room when the doctor told her mother and father the news. She understood everything that was happening. Sarah knew she would no longer be able to go to gymnastics or play her favorite sports. She knew she would endure an 8″ incision to open up the middle of her chest. Sarah’s mother, Brenda, would tell us later that, when the family got in the car after the doctor’s visit Sarah finally spoke, “It’s ok, Mom. It’s what has to happen. But I’m scared of all the pain. What if I wake up during surgery? I know it’s going to hurt.”
Brenda assured Sarah she wouldn’t wake up during surgery. But she didn’t know how to address the pain. Because this was going to hurt.
As Sarah was prepped for surgery, the Costal Bend and Lonestar Chivers held a fundraiser for Sarah, raising nearly $8,000. And here at theCHIVE we were making plans to surprise Sarah and her family the following week. But first, we were going shopping….
Only minutes before her surgery, Sarah was ‘so brave and optimistic.’
Sarah’s father, Gino.
Sarah recovered faster than the doctors could have hoped. She was allowed to go home after only a week in the hospital.
We had a wish list of Sarah’s favorite toys. We also got a list for Sarah’s baby brother, Aiden. We wanted to make sure both kids had an avalanche of presents to open.
At the top of Sarah’s wish list was a karaoke machine and an iPad.
Angie, Chelsea, and I arrive at Sarah’s house in Corpus Christi with members of the Costal Bend Chive chapter.
Sarah sees all her presents for the first time.
We heard 2 year-old Aiden loves trucks. He got a ton of them.
… and Sarah got her karaoke machine.
Sarah’s mother and father knew we were bringing presents for the kids. What they didn’t know was we had a Christmas present for them as well – A check for $10,000 to RAK them on behalf of Chive Nation. What happened next didn’t leave a dry eye in the place…
We finally gave Sarah her last present. What could it possibly be?
Sarah has this amazing shy smile. She kept thanking us after opening each gift. We couldn’t have helped a better girl.
Sarah with her Aunt Sarah, who started the entire pay it forward movement.
Before we left, Sarah made something for us. A little sign she made herself.
I wished the family a Merry Christmas and told them to enjoy the presents. Brenda looked down at her daughter and told me, “I have the only Christmas present I’ll ever need right here. She’s alive. My Christmas wish came true.”
Thanks so much for enabling us to do this, Chivers. It was a magical day and it reminded us what the spirit of Christmas is really all about.
Follow Chive Charities on Twitter for all the updates on Sarah.
Oh, and yes, Sarah’s aunt started a GoFundMe Page. I’ll just leave this link right here. I’m sure y’all can figure out something to do with it.