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News-Sentinel helped make my daughter's dream come true

Friday, December 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

Merry Christmas!

I have no concept of time. Dementia patients are that way. My daughter Jamie reminded me that it is exactly 20 years ago this month that WLDE and Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel helped make my daughter Amy a hero.

She has cerebral palsy, and in 1993 we mainstreamed her into a “regular” fourth-grade classroom. She has difficulty speaking and walking, and the children were confused by her appearance. She experienced teasing, and we spoke to her teacher, Mrs. Danneck, at South Wayne. We thought the teasing was under control.

That Christmas, WLDE had a Letter to Santa contest. She wanted a three-foot Barbie, so we told her to write the jolly old fellow. She knelt at the coffee table and very carefully composed her letter. She asked for help spelling cerebral palsy.

We had no idea of the letter’s contents. She very carefully sealed the envelope, and my husband Jim took the letter to NIPSCO (the dropoff site). We thought no more of it until the next day the program director for the radio station, Lee Tobin, called our home. He read us her letter, and we were thunderstruck. It read as follows: “Dear Santa, My name is Amy Hagadorn and I am 9 years old. I have cerebral palsy. I have a problem at school. Kids make fun of me because of the way I talk and the way I walk and the way I run. I just want one day when no one teases me. Love, Amy.”

Tobin said a reporter would be coming with a photographer. Kevin Kilbane came and wrote a beautiful story. The story was picked up by The Associated Press, and before we knew it, Amy was on CNN news! She was the headline story for papers across the world.

Amy received her day and so much more. We received thousands of letters from people all over the world explaining the heartache they went through. Amy still prays for those people 20 years later. Her story is in three “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.

We cannot thank WLDE or The News-Sentinel enough. For one brief moment in time, a little girl who had stopped dreaming began to dream once more. Thank you for making us as a family dream, too.

Patti Hagadorn is a resident of Fort Wayne.