The Generosity of a Child: 8-Year-Old Former Patient and Student at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children Celebrates Birthday by Giving to Others

Elizabeth Kessler rallies family & community to support preschool for kids with special needs

Eight-year-old Elizabeth Kessler recently did something amazing for New York’s sickest children. She celebrated her ninth birthday on Wednesday, December 18, 2013; and while most children her age would have excitedly asked for birthday gifts, Elizabeth chose to commemorate her special day by bringing gifts and donations to the Queens Borough President Helen Marshall Early Childhood Center at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, NY.

It was only a few years ago that Elizabeth attended this special preschool for children with medically complex conditions. In addition to learning her ABC’s and 123’s, Elizabeth learned skills at St. Mary’s that many of us take for granted – like how to walk and talk.

Little Elizabeth was born with hypoxia, a condition that deprived her tiny body of an adequate oxygen supply. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and the prognosis given to her parents was grim—the neurologist said to expect the worst. She was challenged with multiple developmental and cognitive delays and disabilities – unable to walk, talk, smile, or eat. That’s just about the time Elizabeth was introduced to the early childhood development programs at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. She began receiving services through St. Mary’s Early Intervention, a program for newborns through age three, followed by enrollment in St. Mary’s preschool. Her progress was astounding. “Elizabeth couldn’t walk before coming to St. Mary’s, now she runs,” exclaimed her mother Mary Kessler.

Elizabeth, her brother and her parents spearheaded a massive holiday drive last year by reaching out to friends and members of their community to support the children at the school who are facing the highest levels of medical complexity. Her generous donation of toys, games, strollers, arts supplies, books and school supplies was well received by the school staff and the children.

“We are very grateful for the generous gifts provided by the Kessler’s and their friends,” said Jean Steins, Director of the Preschool. “Elizabeth is truly a remarkable child and on behalf of the entire St. Mary’s preschool family I would like to thank her and her entire family, we are very proud of her.”

Elizabeth’s altruistic deed is part of St. Mary’s Kids Day— a holiday fundraising initiative to support the life-affirming intensive rehabilitation, specialized care, and education programs that St. Mary’s provides to thousands of children with special needs.