Elizabeth Dawe is a beautiful little girl who doesn’t realize how much she’s been through, that life’s been harder for her than it’s been for her siblings and cousins and friends. The soon-to-be 9-year-old — her birthday is Feb. 12 — was born with aortic stenosis, a heart condition that has already required three open heart surgeries.
Surgeries are a part of Elizabeth’s life. Doctor’s appointments, needles, tests, trips to Boston Children’s Hospital, just as constant worry is a part of her parents’ lives, waxing and waning, but always present.
But what’s also present in the Dawe family is gratitude.
Elizabeth was only 1 when her family showed up for their first Boston Children’s Hospital fund-raising walk. Her sister Abby was 3, brother Ben, 4, and Stephanie, 11, the only sibling old enough to have an inkling that this celebration, which felt like a fair, full of music and foods and entertainment, was something more.
“Thank you,” was what the Dawes were saying back then. Thank you for this great resource in our own backyard. Thank you to the researchers who figured out a way to help kids with aortic stenosis. Thank you to the doctors who treat them and surgeons who operate and nurses who tend to them and staff who waits on them. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for Elizabeth to live.
When Elizabeth was 3, her father built a portable lemonade stand, which she and her siblings and cousins painted. And her mother, all spring, summer, and fall carted it to soccer games and swimming lessons, to baseball games and gymnastics, setting it up, passing out cups and hand sanitizer, while the children poured lemonade and collected money, which they then donated to the Children’s walk. The family has been raising money in this way every year since.
But because children learn not just from what their parents say but also from what their parents do, Elizabeth, last fall, came up with her own idea.
It dawned on her in September when her mother brought home a headband she’d made in sewing class, a headband that matched a nightgown she’d already made, that this was a thing she could do. Teach me how to make headbands, Mom, this third-grader said. She would sew all different kinds! She would sell them at her school! And then she would donate all the money she made to Children’s Hospital.
Elizabeth made and sold hundreds of headbands for a dollar each at her Merrymount Elementary School holiday fair.
Why not sell your headbands via Facebook on the Canton Yard Sale site, her aunts, who live in Canton, said a few days later. Your headbands are awesome. We know lots of people who would buy them. They convinced her to raise the price to $2. Within six hours, Elizabeth had 500 orders. “2 patriots, 2 bruins , 2 Red Sox & 1 shamrock, please.” “I’d take 2 hearts & 2 shamrocks whenever you get to them. No rush!” “They are beautiful! 5 patriots, 2 Red Sox, 2 Black and white floral thank you! What a great cause!”
It took a village to complete these orders. Her dad drove to different stores to get the fabric. Her mom turned their living room into an assembly line. Her siblings cut fabric. She sewed. And ironed. Aunts and friends packaged and delivered. Before school, after school and work and dinner and showers, everyone worked on getting the headbands finished. The deadline was Super Bowl Sunday. And by Super Bowl Sunday, every order was filled.
On March 13, the day Elizabeth is scheduled to go back to Children’s Hospital for a checkup, she’s bringing her headbands to give to children for free. And she’s planning on making many more headbands — spring, Easter, opening day Red Sox headbands — to sell. Her aunts want her to raise the price to at least $3. Elizabeth isn’t sure. But she promises, with a big, little-kid smile, that it’s something she’ll think about.
The 2018 Eversource Walk for Boston Children’s Hospital (www.childrenshospital.org/walk) is Sunday, June 10, 2018. Elizabeth’s team is TEAM ELIZABEAR.Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.