Special Photo: Gracie Kendall, age 8, center, recently donated a $520 check to the Wilkins family, to pay for Christmas for Chase, Joshua and Taylor, also pictured. Gracie lives in Jasper County and is a student at Jasper County Primary School.
COVINGTON -- When other kids her age are thinking about what they'll get from Santa, all Gracie Kendall wants for Christmas is to make the holiday a little happier for someone in need.
Gracie, 8, recently held a bake sale to benefit a family she'd never even met. She said she was inspired with the fundraising idea while attending a church service, and knew she'd give the profits to a sick child. Gracie went home and told her mom, Kerry, what she wanted to do, and they set about making treats like cookie pops, strawberry cupcakes and whoopee pies to sell at church, school and baseball games.
Members of Journey Church helped with the baking, and the sale went on for a month.
"My goal was $100 and I raised more than $500," Gracie said.
Initially, Gracie hoped to donate the proceeds to a child in the hospital, but was told only family members could visit. It was important to Gracie to meet the person she was helping, so she and her mother began a months-long journey to find a local family in need. Kerry Kendall happened upon a flier about a bass fishing tournament to raise funds for three siblings who are all suffering from NF-1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form throughout the body, and knew she'd found the perfect family.
Chase Wilkins, age 11, his brother, Joshua, 10, and sister Taylor, 8, have different severities of the disorder, with Chase's being the most serious. In the past, he has required chemotherapy to treat a tumor on his optic nerve, but right now his platelets are too low to take the treatment, according to Kristi Johnston, who organized the bass tournament fundraiser for the family.
The parents of the Wilkins children declined to be interviewed for this article, but gave permission to use the children's names and photo.
"They said 'thank you, thank you, thank you,'" Gracie said of the family's reaction when she hand-delivered the $520 check. The children's mother indicated the money will be used to pay for their Christmas, Kendall said.
Gracie is making sure Santa Claus knows all about it. She wrote him a letter detailing the whole story.
"He's probably going to pass out," she said.
This isn't the first time Gracie has extended help to an ill child.
Earlier this year, Gracie had 8 inches of her hair cut to send to Locks of Love because, "I thought about the children who had no hair so I wanted to donate my hair," she said. "I really like to help people. It feels really good."
Kerry Kendall said people are always commenting that she and her husband, Paul, must be doing something right in their rearing of Gracie and her three siblings, Paul Jr., Luke and Levi.
"But she did it all on her own and we're just overly proud as parents," Kendall said. "If anything, we want to teach them to be good people and care for others over themselves."