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Finding blessings in the holidays
Elves on the shelf
Proceeds from the Elves for Catie campaign will go toward fighting childhood cancer. - photo by Photo provided

We have all experienced good and bad during our Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I will not forget losing my Grandfather Hinely in 1982 between Christmas and New Year’s Day and losing my Grandmother Exley on Christmas Day in 1989. That Christmas Day in 1989 also brought joy as my brother David gave his wife Cynthia a diamond.

Christmas should be a happy time of year and it brings joy to so many children. Not all children are able to enjoy Christmas due to illness.

It is heartbreaking for anyone to face cancer, but oh so much more so for a child. This has to be a parent’s worst nightmare. My heart breaks for the parents who have lost a son or daughter and cannot celebrate Christmas with that child. Kyle and Margaret Edwards lost their 3-year-old in 1995 due to the same cancer that his mother overcame. They have gone on to raise funds and do so much good toward awareness and funding of research so that hopefully one day parents will not have to endure what they did. Their blessing this year is a little “man” named Noah who is lucky to have such loving parents.

Martin and Angie Wilkins lost their daughter Paisley in 2000 after a valiant fight with cancer. Their family was strengthened by the tragedy.  The couple is now involved with the education of young people in their Christian school. They are rearing their other three children: Patrick, Tessa and Andrew. Each one was great today as they took part in the Christmas program at Holy Trinity.  I have a feeling another little angel from heaven was looking down on the participants today.

Elves from Catie began after the death of Tre and Jenny Wilkins’s daughter Catie who was diagnosed at the age of 1 with a brain tumor.  She died in 2007 but lives on through Elves from Catie to bring joy to children who are sick with serious illnesses.  Donors can sponsor an elf for pediatric cancer patients. For each purchase, $5 is donated to cure childhood cancer. Catie’s clever mother helped Catie through so many days staging the silly elf in all kinds of shenanigans that brought Catie joy through her favorite toy.

Melody and Tom Moore are fighting now and praying for a miracle for their son Robbie who is also battling brain cancer. Robbie loves cart racing and NASCAR. We all pray for his “Miracle” and a good Christmas for Robbie. The whole community and his racing family are supporting them. Each day is full of Christmas surprises at the Moore house.

One of the “Miracles” who will celebrate Christmas is Daniel Trowell. He is a young man who is now a student at Effingham Christian School. Born three months early and weighing only two pounds, he got off to a rocky start and has cerebral palsy.

He was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4. The treatment caused kidney failure and after his cancer was cured he remained on dialysis. His parents and especially his mother who was the daily caregiver took him wherever they could get the best possible treatment. From Atlanta to Birmingham and back to Augusta, he won the cancer battle. His mother would not give up until she found someone who did not refuse a kidney transplant for Daniel. He got a kidney at Emory after two other centers refused. After lots of isolation, he is now enrolled in school again instead of having homebound education.

Wherever Daniel is, he has never met a stranger and is loved by all whom he encounters in the health care profession or otherwise. He smiles, laughs and jokes and gives you enthusiasm for life just for having met him. Despite his limited ability to walk far and his stunted growth, this fellow makes up for it all in personality.

He will tell you he is grateful for his Mom and Dad and to God for making all things possible.  We wish you a wonderful Christmas Daniel. No doubt he and his family will be out there in the community volunteering to help others like their friends did for them in their time of need.  Paying it forward is their philosophy and they have done a lot to help many others in need.  No doubt if you have a conversation with Daniel Trowell this Christmas, you are the one that God has blessed just by being with this remarkable young man.

Our prayers go out for those who celebrate with family or remember their loved ones in their hearts during this special week. Pray for our soldiers and their families who are in harm’s way to give us our freedom. Merry Christmas to all!

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: