To the Editor:

Are Christmas elves real? I’m not talking about a Will Ferrell movie, I’m talking about real-life, present-making elves. Up until recently, I didn’t think they were… but then Heather Stabinsky from Circle of Care introduced me to her unique holiday drive, and I started to rethink things.

All the things we love about the holidays — family, friends, food, gifts, festivities — they’re not the same for a child with cancer. These kids are often isolated from friends and family, may have no appetite due to chemo, and might be too exhausted to celebrate anything. And the endless medical and unforeseen expenses can make it difficult for parents to afford gifts for them. 

Circle of Care has shown that the worst of circumstances can sometimes bring out the best in people. When Heather was a teenager she had Hodgkin lymphoma, which prevented her from enjoying the holidays like the rest of the kids. That’s why several years later Heather, who is now cancer-free, had the idea to curate and deliver holiday gifts through Circle of Care to children currently facing cancer. In 2020, when they piloted this idea, they were able to deliver gifts to 17 homes. Since then, the support and enthusiasm from communities around Connecticut has snowballed into something magical. 

This year, Circle of Care will deliver gifts to 126 families with the help of 45 volunteer elves! Heather’s personal experience allows her to tailor these gifts to the unique needs of children going through treatment. Many kids received stuffed animals that warm up (“Warmies”), providing comfort and relief from symptoms associated with cancer. Some received travel board games that are easy to play in the car while going back and forth to the hospital. Teenagers who may be more private about their cancer journey got jewelry with morse code and other symbols for strength and bravery. Heather and her elves put together these gift packages of carefully thought-out items with special consideration to the likes or needs of each patient they are going to, wrap them in festive wrapping paper, and prepare them for delivery.

Local organizations and donors have rallied in unexpected numbers to collect and provide the gift items, guided by Heather, and volunteers have come out in droves to deliver the gifts to the children’s homes. The kids aren’t expecting it — the gifts just magically appear at their front doors. It’s not medical treatment… it’s not a cure for cancer… but it helps bring something these kids need most during the holidays — pure joy. 

A huge thank you to Wilton businesses and organizations who participated this year: Classically Cate, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Champagne Taste, Blue Star Bazaar, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Miller Driscoll Elementary School staff, and Wilton High School Circle of Care Club.

And thanks also to those outside of Wilton who also worked to make the holidays bright for these children: Bridgeport Fire Department, Valley Diner Bike Night group, NCL Canaan Parish and NCL Westport, Office Evolution Westport, F+F Mechanical, The Toy Chest, HAVYN in Darien, Orange Theory Danbury, and Greenwich Country Day School

Let’s all be thankful that elves are real.

George Whang

One reply on “LETTER: Do You Believe in Elves? They Exist at Circle of Care Helping Kids with Cancer”

  1. Rarely have I contributed to such a smoothly run Christmas toy drive. Heather really thought everything through and with The Circle of Cares support made this a fun satisfying event for all who contributed. Kudos to all!

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