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Friday, January 2, 2015

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Dying girl's wish brings warmth to young Phoenix homeless




Yihyun Jeong, The Republic | azcentral.com




The wish of a dying girl to bring warmth to the poor came true in Phoenix on Monday when kids in an after-school program at a shelter received soup and blankets.
Natalia Marsh-Welton, of Cincinnati, 11, died of an inoperable brain tumor in November, but her legacy lives on through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
When asked for her one wish, according to the foundation, Natalia said, "Can we feed the homeless?" She said she wanted to give people without a home the soup that kept her warm when chemotherapy made her so cold.
Natalia's wish has fed the hungry in Cincinnati and, now, in Phoenix.
The after-school program at Central Arizona Shelter Services, near 17th and Dunlap avenues, serves at-risk and homeless children. It received 100 blankets and a box of ingredients to make Natalia's special soup on Monday as part of her wish.
"It was a pleasant shock to hear that we were going to receive all of this," said Brenda Cash, a volunteer manager at CASS. "When you hear her story, you just can't believe a little girl would do something like this for other children."
Cash had the children help cook the soup to better understand the story behind their gifts.
"Do you guys know what trimmings are?" Jonnie Brundage, the after-school program coordinator, asked the kids who had just washed their hands.
Silence.
"They're the ends of the vegetables. Even though they look like scraps, make sure to save them for the soup."
Split into two teams, the girls tackled the carrots and turnips, while the boys took charge of the leeks and bell peppers.
"I like carrots and broccoli, but I hate, hate, hate bell peppers," said 12-year-old Nehemiah Lindo, who explained that he volunteered to chop them so he could "beat them up."
Brundage warned, "Be careful with the peppers. There are seeds inside of them that can burn if you get them on your face."
"You're right! There are seeds," said 9-year-old Marshall Chavez as he cut into a pepper. "Woah."
"Do I need goggles for this?" he asked Brundage.


Many children in the program aren't used to eating fresh fruits and vegetables, Cash explained. Some were seeing certain varieties for the first time because their parents can't afford them, she said.
Giggling, Marshall continued chopping and announced, "Cooking is fun ... but I'm not going to tell my mom because she is going to get too excited." He said he's worried he will have to help out in the kitchen at home if his mom finds out.
Marshall's older sister, 12-year-old Sarah, rolled her eyes as she worked on the carrots.
"My mom will be happy to hear about today because she is always worried about the cold and that we will get sick," Sarah said. "I'm going to give my little sisters my blanket. They need it more than I do."
While the vegetables simmered, Brundage shared Natalia's story.
"Natalia understood how a wish has power," she began. "And hers was to feed and provide warmth for others."
A boy in the front turned to his neighbor and said, "Is Miss Jonnie about to cry?"
"I am," Brundage said, wiping away tears. "This is just a little girl who made this big wish. She wasn't much older than you."
A few boys and girls began to cry, as well. They sat, captivated, as Brundage played a video that accompanied the items sent to the group by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
They listened until the screen went black. A young boy asked his friend for a hug.
"I like it cause of her spirit," Nehemiah said. "She could have gone to Disneyland or watched Cartoon Network all day. But she decided to help us. That takes heart."
Taking the lesson further, Brundage asked the children what their one wish would be.
Hands shot up immediately, but one boy quickly blurted out, "I want to help the hungry, too."
"I want to say thank you," a girl said.
"How about we make a few thank you cards to send to Natalia's parents?" Brundage suggested to the children, who nodded in agreement.
As the room filled with the hearty aroma of bubbling vegetables and bow-tie pasta, the art projects were underway.
"It's to send to her family," said 7-year-old Yeshua El, folding a piece of yellow construction paper. "They probably don't think that anyone cares, but we do. We care a lot."
Inside the card, Yeshua wrote, "I hope you are proud of Natalia, though you might be sad that she passed away." He also promised to send along a review of how the soup tastes.
Brundage walked by and smiled.
"At any point in their life, any of these kids could have a great impact on others like Natalia did," she said. "I want them to know that even with their experiences, they can go on to be great and do a lot to help others. They, too, can do incredible things."
Tyler Hall, 7, held up a card with a large heart drawn on the front. "Look, Miss Jonnie." Inside, the message simply said, "Thank you for the soup."