Inspiration Comes in Small Packages
by Susan Neuhalfen
9 – year old Lantana resident Sadie Keller was diagnosed with leukemia in the spring of 2015. A remarkable young woman, she has been through more than most adults seven times her age. Yet through it all, she has always managed to think of others first.
“It is amazing how Sadie has taken her cancer diagnosis and made it good,” said her mom, Sarah. “We are so proud of her and she inspires us, too.”
When Christmas 2015 was approaching, Sadie worried about the children who were not lucky enough to come home for Christmas and how they would receive their gifts at the hospital. As a result, she started Sadie’s Sleigh, a toy drive for the kids fighting cancer who could not go home for Christmas.
The first year her goal was to collect 300 toys. With the help of local businesses, friends and family, as well as promotion on social media, she surpassed her goal in only one week. She ended up collecting 1,300 toys which she delivered to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
This year, Sadie’s goal was to collect 3,000 toys for the kids. Being the overachiever she is, she collected 4,400 toys which she delivered to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth as well as Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Malone Plumbing donated one truck and labor to deliver to Cook Children’s Hospital while Around the Clock Movers donated two trucks and labor for the second year in a row to deliver to Children’s Medical Center. The toys not only went to patients, but also to forty children with cancer and their siblings who aren’t in the hospital but who might not have had much of a Christmas otherwise. They were also able to provide 20 parents bags that included a travel coffee mug, fleece blanket and Visa gift card.
Sadie and her crew handed off the presents to the big guy himself, Santa. Then Santa had a very special present for Sadie.
Santa told Sadie that every two years the elves change the bells on the reindeer then give the bell to very special girls or boys who have a giver’s heart and help others. He called it The Giver’s Bell. He told her how proud he was of her and that he had chosen her to receive this very rare gift. She proudly wears it around her neck.
That, however, was not the end of her amazing day. After seeing her story on the news, Starlight Flight from Dallas gave Sadie and her family a tour of the Christmas lights in what Sarah described as “the smallest plane she’d ever seen.”
Sadie acted as co-pilot and was even given the opportunity to take the plane’s controls.
“It’s all you,” David from Starlight Flights told Sadie. “It’s just like a video game controller.”
Sadie and her brother Grant agreed that their favorite part of the ride was the “fake landing” when the plane almost touched the ground and then shot back up and quickly dropped back down.
Many Lantana residents and businesses came together for this amazing cause. It Works!®, the company for which Sarah is an independent distributor, collected many of the one thousand gifts in September that helped kick off Sadie’s Sleigh.
Lantana-based Fixd gave up their holiday party to spend the money on Sadie’s Sleigh. They gave each group of employees money and had a competition to see who could get the best toys for the money. They delivered 500 toys to the Keller’s house.
Blanton Elementary, where Sadie attends school, held a toy drive during two weeks in December. There was a competition between classes to see who could bring the most toys.
Heather Shimala, Keller Williams realtor and president of the Lantana Ladies League helped recruit drop off points and made signs and boxes for each. The Lantana Ladies League also had a kickoff party for kids to get their picture with Santa and bring gifts for Sadie’s Sleigh. It was at this event where Sadie was introduced to Deni Stritch with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
“She emailed a few weeks later and let us know that BSA was planning on participating in Sadie’s Sleigh for their Christmas party,” said Sarah. “We attended the party where they gave Sadie over 800 toys and a check for $2,900 to The Sadie Keller Foundation.”
BSA also presented Sadie with a life size bear just for her. She named it Snowflake.
In addition, about 30 friends and family, mostly residents of Lantana, also helped carry and place the toys for Sadie’s big picture which took place in their cul-de-sac in Lantana. They then sorted the toys by hospital and bagged them up for the deliveries.
“It was so awesome to see how many people Sadie’s mission has inspired,” said her mom. “Several of her friends were there, teachers, and even people who had just been following
Just when you thought this little girl couldn’t do more for others she has plenty of other stuff in the works. The Sadie Keller Foundation will start collecting BIG toys for milestone gifts. These toys will be presented to children fighting cancer as they reach a milestone such as remission, end of treatment, getting past a long hospital stay, getting out of the ICU, or if the child just needs to be cheered up and reminded to keep fighting.
Sadie is also an advocate for childhood cancer and recently went to Washington D.C. to speak to some members of congress about providing more funding since only given 4% of their funding comes from the government. She has been invited back to Lobby Day where she will be meeting with senators and congressmen about funding as well.
She will also continue her work with Sadie’s Sleigh, which has far surpassed anything imaginable already. It does take a village, or in this case, a great community like Lantana, to make this project such a success.
“There was so many people that donated, supported, prayed and helped Sadie blow her goal away,” said Sarah. “We are grateful to live in this amazing community!”
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