"The Gift"

Holiday songs fill the airwaves, lights frame houses in holiday cheer and shoppers intensify their search for that perfect gift.  People exchange gifts to celebrate Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanza.  It seems to me the perfect gift is one that comes from the heart and is given with pure intentions. The perfect gift is something someone appreciates and can meet a legitimate need, can be life-changing and is given with a sense of excitement and importance.

 We all have visions of that perfect gift.  It is my good fortune to have witnessed both the giving and receiving of many perfect gifts to benefit Mary Cariola Children's Center, our students, residents and staff. The gifts come in all sorts of different sizes, shapes and forms.  Financial donations help us bridge the gap between tuition reimbursements and the real cost of educating our students.  Gifts can come in the shape of household items that will furnish our new residence for those children with the most complex medical needs.  Equipment used for physical and occupational therapy can be a most valuable gift.  The gift of time and talent by volunteers and interns are the gifts that are aligned with our mission and values.  And of course there is the gift of our students and residents, who continuously remind us why we do what we do and challenge us to make us better at our work.

Most recently I was touched to receive a call from someone with no prior connection to Mary Cariola who had seen a story on the news about one of our student’s families.  The story featured one of our beautiful preschoolers who is legally blind and faces developmental challenges as well as needing to use a wheelchair for mobility. Her family has been desperately searching for an affordable van that is wheelchair accessible.  The news story ran on television and we linked the story on our Mary Cariola Facebook page.  Fate then brought together two families who previously had no connection. A donor family saw the story and felt the immediate need to help.  In remarkable speed our student’s family was gifted a van that is fitted for wheelchairs and the necessary equipment for transfers.  While there are significant financial implications for the giver, this gift did not come from a wallet or check book, rather, it came purely from the heart.

This very same “holiday miracle worker” found it in her heart and in the heart of her family and co-workers that money spent on client and staff gifts was better spent on something real and tangible to help those who need it.  Today a family can now transport a four year-old who will strive for her life-long potential here are Mary Cariola Children's Center.

Another student can’t get to school unless his Mom is there to assist his private duty nurse in getting him in and out of the house, for there is no ramp that would make access much easier. 


He has missed some days of school due to this problem.  Here again a caring “holiday angel” has swooped in and through his company is providing the proper evaluation to have a ramp put in and then with the support of his staff will provide the ramp to this family as a holiday gift.

These are just two of the multitude of perfect gifts that are given to our students and their families.  For example, there’s a gift exchange that takes place at our East Henrietta campus as staff and families donate items for kids to “purchase” for their own families, the true meaning of “from our family to yours.”  In the classroom of one of our veteran teachers, students are taught “to pay it forward” through gift buying, raffles and craft projects that raise funds for projects to support others in an effort to stress the importance of giving to others and that everyone is capable of giving.

Our staff gives endlessly of their time and talents.  Our Board of Directors provides their expertise, their time and their finances, giving 100% to our mission and vision for the agency.  These gifts come from the heart and are born from a genuine caring for people in our community.  They bring positive, impactful change to those on the receiving end and frankly they bring joy to the hearts of all of us.

The beautiful part of these gestures is our “gift givers” have the desire and drive to “pay it forward” and encourage, even challenge others in our community to do the same.  In the coming days we’ll be talking about this community-wide effort to help those connected with Mary Cariola.  We’ll share their stories on our social media pages and we’ll strengthen our “attitude of gratitude” not only during the holidays, but throughout the coming months.  Giving from the heart provides much to both the giver and the receiver.  Being at Cariola offers the best gifts every day—a child’s smile, their first steps, their success in communicating and the accomplishments they make.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Mary Cariola Children's Center.