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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Finding strength in struggles

Easter for Eli program continues with community help
Happy+hearts.+A+child+in+the+hospital+shows+her+heart-warming+smile+after+receiving+an+Easter+for+Eli+basket.+The+basket+was+filled+with+toys%2C+games+and+other+items+to+keep+her+entertained+during+her+stay.+
Courtesy of Easter for Eli
Happy hearts. A child in the hospital shows her heart-warming smile after receiving an Easter for Eli basket. The basket was filled with toys, games and other items to keep her entertained during her stay.

Every parent’s biggest nightmare: Hearing their child has cancer. 

Martin Garrett had to live through this nightmare when his son, Elias Garrett, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoma at 2-years-old.

“After he was diagnosed, we went into remissions right away. Eleven months later, he relapsed again,” Garrett said. “We started an aggressive treatment for a stem cell transplant. We were 55 days post-transplant, everything was going well and then he relapsed for a third time, this time with Leukemia. Then he was just too beat up to start hammering down on high doses of chemo again, so they stopped treatment to see how things would go. Two days later, he passed away.” 

Over the two Easters the Garretts spent in the hospital, family helping family turned into family helping thousands. 

“My aunt and her coworkers from Warnaco in Duncansville would build 20-30 Easter baskets and bring them to Eli. He would share the baskets with the rest of the kids on the Oncology floor of the hospital,” Garrett said. “After Eli passed away, we continued to do it. Then in 2014, the ladies at Waranco split up, so there were no baskets that year. In 2015, I decided to start a Facebook page, “Easter for Eli” with a goal of 300 baskets. After a couple of weeks, we had our 300, and it just kept going up to 1,000 baskets, so we decided to reach out to other hospitals. Now we are in 54 children’s hospitals, 14 Ronald McDonald houses, three Shriners hospitals and 21 states.” 

In 2012, senior Abigail Miller was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer found in children. She completed her treatments at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Eli had gone during his battle as well. 

“I was diagnosed with kidney cancer five days after my sixth birthday. They removed a five-pound tumor and my left kidney,” Miller said. “The doctors and nurses are great. They do an amazing job with what they do, making sure everyone is comfortable and prepared for whatever is thrown their way. I had a nurse who walked me through my treatments and would give me bubble gum, so I wouldn’t taste the bad stuff. I continue to go there once a year for bloodwork and if I have any other tests to run that year. My family feels welcomed as if we were all one big family when we are there.”

Girl’s League adviser Megan Yingling decided to bring more attention to the Easter for Eli organization by allowing students to participate. 

“My husband works with Eli’s dad. We have always donated a basket to the organization as a family. When I became the adviser of Girl’s League, I thought it was a great opportunity to help the fundraiser grow even bigger,” Yingling said.

A little bit goes a long way. Especially when it comes to children who find themselves stuck in the hospital for months on end and the parents who have to watch their children undergo various treatments. 

“Friends and family would come to visit, and they would bring Sheetz gift cards. It helped with transportation because most children’s hospitals are around a two-hour area from us. They have volunteers that would come in and bring gifts and no matter what it was, it helped the kids to feel more at home,” Garrett said. 

Easter for Eli is even able to give baskets to cancer survivors and fighters who aren’t currently in hospitals or treatment centers. 

“I wasn’t in the hospital at the time when I received it, but I did get one on my doorstep at home. I was really happy and appreciative when I got it,” Miller said. “It was full of things to make crafts and toys, all of the stuff that makes kids happy.” 

This is Girl’s League’s second year taking part in the Easter for Eli fundraiser. They were able to put 23 baskets together to be delivered to sick children. 

“I was hoping to make more baskets this year, but I’m happy with how it turned out,” Yingling said. “It’s a great feeling. Being able to brighten a child’s day and put a smile on their faces while they are in the hospital for an extended stay is very rewarding.”

Helping other families through Eli’s legacy is a way to remember him and the positive impact that he had on those around him. Last year, Easter for Eli was able to deliver 5,000 baskets and $4,800 worth of gift cards. 

“He was always a good kid. He was fun-loving. He never let anything get him down even throughout his medical condition and numerous needle sticks and pokes and prods. He continued to be strong and be the best that he could be. I did everything with him, even things that most young adults have never done. We raced four-wheelers together when he was three years old,” Garrett said. “Being able to continue to share Eli’s story and help other families in need helps us deal with our loss because we can continue to remember him every day by running the foundation.” 

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About the Contributor
Megan Shultz
Megan Shultz, Associate Editor
My name is Megan Shultz, and I am an associate editor on the Mt. Echo staff. Ever since I was young I would spend my free time writing stories for my family. Now, entering my senior year, I still get excited to show them my work. When I'm not reading or writing, I love to dance and hangout with my friends. Once I graduate, I hope to attend Mount Aloysius for their sonography program. Until then, I'm looking forward to my senior year and the awesome memories I will make.

Comments (3)

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  • A

    Amber ShultzMar 25, 2024 at 6:48 pm

    What a great story! A great outreach to these kiddos going through such a hard time! Good Job !

    Reply
  • K

    KevinMar 25, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    Great story!!! Great program!!!

    Reply
  • J

    Jordan HescoxMar 25, 2024 at 8:34 am

    Such a well written piece

    Reply