... and Brought a Smile to the Face of a Very Sick Little Girl
Long, Kay, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Kay Long Daily Herald Staff Writer
There's no better salve for the soul than making a difference in someone's life. Lisa Giannini of Mundelein learned that while helping a little girl with cancer.
When Giannini survived a months-long ordeal that nearly took her life last year, she vowed to start anew and live life to help others.
Little did she know that at the same time, the Ehrhart family in Tinley Park, 60 miles away, was just about to learn that their baby girl, Alexis, had a rare form of cancer, Wilms tumor, in her kidney.
Now one year later, 3-year-old Alexis, minus her strawberry blonde hair, is in remission and Gianinni is receiving national attention for her efforts to help the little girl.
Aside from giving her immense personal satisfaction, making a difference in someone's life landed Gianinni on the cover of a national newspaper magazine, and earned the charity of her choice a $10,000 charitable donation from Paul Newman and his food company, Newman's Own.
Giannini, along with Alexis and her parents, are on the cover of Sunday's USA Weekend magazine. The issue, which will be inserted into Sunday's Daily Herald, highlights 10 winners across the country whose efforts stood out among the more than 2 million volunteers who took time out to help others on Oct. 27, 2001, a national day of good deeds known as Make a Difference Day.
Giannini and the Ehrharts will give the $10,000 to Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, The money will go toward a new pediatric oncology wing and for a parents' support group.
For months, Giannini toiled at collecting money and prizes for a fund-raising raffle, all for a little girl she had never met. Giannini met Alexis for the first time on Make A Difference Day, her arms full of prizes, toys and balloons, even a firetruck for Alexis' older brother, Joey.
"Lexy was totally excited," the little girl's mother, Dawn Ehrhart says. "She fit right in and just sat down and started playing with Alexis."
Giannini had grown close to Allexis before meeting her, through phone calls, e-mails and pictures.
"I thought that when I went to see her I would be bawling my eyes out. But because of her spirit, I didn't cry at all," Giannini says. "She just started immediately dancing. She is just like a regular kid."
Since winning the award, the two have seen a lot more of each other. …