“THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 31, 2015) — On Thursday, The Post & Email received a letter from NWCX prisoner Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III in response to our having informed him of the request made by eight-year-old Safyre Terry for enough Christmas cards to fill a brass stand in her home this season.
Safyre is the sole survivor of an arson fire which claimed the lives of her father and three younger siblings on May 2, 2013. She spent ten months in the hospital and has had her right hand and left leg below the knee amputated, undergoing more than 50 operations to date. She faces surgery next week, Dolder reported on Facebook.
By December 8, “two dozen” cards had arrived, bringing the little girl Christmas joy. But that was just the beginning, as cards and gifts began to arrive from all over the world, including Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Canada, and the White House.
As of Christmas Eve, Safyre had received “more than a million cards,” CBS News reported. According to a post of Dolder’s on Wednesday, the family, along with volunteers, are photographing and posting as many of the cards and gifts Safyre received as is humanly possible. As of Tuesday, volunteers were still needed to open cards.
The family decided to distribute the many extra toys to children in need through the Capital Region Toys for Tots sponsored by the U.S. Marines. On December 23, Safyre was crowned “Little Miss Capital Region Toys for Tots” and assisted in distributing the toys throughout the community, including to homeless and domestic violence shelters, Boston Shriners Hospital, and the Salvation Army. “Her message is out to the world now,” Dolder said.
In September, a fundraising campaign was launched by a family friend after Dolder’s husband Mike lost his job. Dolder is a stay-at-home mother to eight-year-old twins, Jasmine and Jacob, and to Safyre since becoming her guardian after the fire. As of December 31, more than $422,000 was raised to help the family with their financial hardship and the cost of future medical care for Safyre, with $1,000 arriving during the writing of this article.
The Albany County Correctional Facility’s Children’s Benefit Fund has aided Safyre during her recovery, as have motorcycle and police organizations. In the fall, two fundraisers were held, one by motorcyclists and the other by Lorenzo’s Italian Cafe in memory of Jimmy Parola.
Dolder has described her niece as a happy, giving child. A theme appearing often on the Facebook page is “FAITH LOVE HOPE TO ALL.”
A local charity, Baking Memories 4 Children, has gifted Safyre’s family with a trip to Walt Disney World later this winter.
Other gifts and cards received, which include hand-painted and hand-drawn designs, stuffed animals, costumes, stickers, decorations, and dolls, can be viewed in a slideshow here.
In one photo, Safyre is wearing a pink sweatshirt with the word “Believe” in large gold letters. To the right of the photo, Dolder wrote, “BELIEVE BELIEVE BELIEVE She did. When she said she can’t wait to fill up the card tree my response was I don’t think it’s gonna get filled up but I am sure we will get a few more cards. She BELIEVED and ALL of YOU are making it happen. THANK YOU…..FAITH LOVE HOPE TO ALL.”
While mail and gifts continued to flood in, Safyre tested and successfully used a prosthetic hand designed by students attending the University of Albany. Safyre’s desire is to learn to write with her new right hand, which will require readjusting as she grows.
Safyre was fitted earlier this year for a leg prosthetic to which she has made a remarkable adjustment.
Fitzpatrick’s letter reads as follows: