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Tori Frahm has experienced just eight Christmases, but she epitomizes the true spirit of the holiday. She and her family organized collection and delivery of 750 presents for pediatric oncology patients and their siblings at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The gifts helped 125 families have a brighter holiday.

Tori’s efforts began when she and her mother, Susan, saw a segment of the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” when Ellen gave $100,000 to a school with a large population of homeless students. DeGeneres’ gift was matched by Justin Bieber.

Tori suggested to her mother that the Frahms give $100,000 to someone to help. Instead, Tori’s mother called Nicole Pratapas, a major gifts officer at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

They visited the pediatric oncology clinic the day before Thanksgiving to learn about the clinic and talk with the staff about finding a family to help. Nurse manager Ken Neuvirth, RN, MSN, explained that there were many families who needed help. Tori’s mission began: collect and wrap 300-400 gifts for patients and siblings. But she has far surpassed her goal, with 750 gifts.

Tori’s family, schoolmates, neighbors, community and friends all contributed to the drive as did UNC Lineberger employees. Nicole Pratapas’ mini-van was completely packed, on more than one occasion, with everything from soft cuddly stuffed toys to iTune cards. The wrapped and labeled gifts were organized by age and gender and filled an entire consultation room.

Neuvirth explains, “Sometimes parents of pediatric patients don’t have the time, or the funds, to shop for the holidays. These gifts made hundreds of families’ holidays brighter.”

Parents were invited to visit the room to select a gift for each of their children. One father said, “ Thank you. We told our other children that their present this year was their brother still being here so this is really nice.”

Susan Frahm said, “When we first spoke about this program, I felt a bit overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with 300 to 400 gifts in such a short time. I wasn’t sure Tori and I would meet our goal, but we knew we had to try. I left the hospital after our tour full of emotion. I felt a sadness in my heart for the children and families dealing with illness and having to go through treatments. I can only imagine how scary what they are going through must be. I also felt humbled and encouraged by how positive and cheerful the children and staff seemed.”

“I felt fortunate to have a healthy, kind-hearted child and a loving supportive husband. Lastly, I felt a resolve that we had to help, we had to do all that we could to ease the burden for those parents and bring some happiness to those children no matter how daunting the task seemed. I soon learned how fully and wholeheartedly the people of this community would join us in our efforts to make this program a success.”

“After the amazing article in the Burlington Times News, the gifts came in by the dozens. Tori and I were more amazed everyday. Friends and strangers alike gave toys, money and their time. I still have a check and a trunk full of toys to deliver to you. Tori and I feel honored that we were able to be a small part of this effort. Our hearts are full this holiday season just knowing that we were able to be the spark that started this program.”

Stuart Gold, MD, professor of pediatrics and division chief of pediatric oncology, said, “There are many kind people and families who have gone out of their way throughout the years to support our patients and their families. We are so grateful to each of them for making our patients’ journey through the cancer treatment process better. Tori inspired others to join her in making our children’s holidays brighter. It is always wonderful when people want to give and it is especially wonderful when it is coming from the heart of an 8-and-a half- year-old girl.”

Read related article in the January 2, 2012 issue of The Times News.

Read related article in the December 31, 2012 issue of The Times News.