LITTLETON - "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy." This line is from one of the most famous newspaper editorials ever written, and it was inspired by a child.
Children have the ability to inspire the best in all of us. The students at Normandy Elementary School in Littleton have taken their love for a teacher to a new level, inspiring their parents, educators and members of the community.
Two students who happen to be sisters, started "The True Gift Fund" to help fourth grade teacher Jewely Del Duca.
Del Duca is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is 35 years old.
While undergoing chemotherapy she has remained in the classroom. Del Duca says her students keep her mind off cancer and provide her with encouragement and support.
This experience has provided students many other important lessons too. Del Duca is hoping to qualify for HIPEC treatment (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) which involves a surgical procedure where a heated form of chemotherapy is delivered to the abdominal cavity.
Three times, Del Duca's insurance company denied her request for the expensive treatment.
Her story appeared on 9NEWS and CNN and the insurance company reconsidered.
Unfortunately, Del Duca is still waiting for consensus from doctors to get the treatment. In the meantime, her family and friends are raising money to cover the medical costs.
Del Duca's battle has had a significant impact on Jenna and Jocie Bradford. Jenna, who is in the sixth grade, remembers Mrs. Del Duca as her favorite teacher. Jocie is in Del Duca's class this year.
When Jenna started to think about Christmas this year she came up with an idea.
"I thought it would be better to instead of getting Christmas presents this year, that we donate all the money to Mrs. Del Duca," said Jenna.
In addition, she decided to ask every student at Normandy to consider giving up one gift and donate to the fund.
Jocie liked the idea too, although she was a wee bit concerned about giving up every present.
"I thought it was a good idea, but then I was like, there's going to be no presents. Then I started thinking of Santa and my grandma and grandpa and I knew that they would get me presents. And I was OK with that, because my room is just a cluttered mess," she said.
Del Duca was astounded by the children's selflessness. To give up Christmas presents is a big deal.
"To give it up for another human being is such a mark of empathy," added Del Duca.
The students have a Christmas tree just outside the front office with a message about the True Gift Fund. Everyone who donates is given a frog ornament, because Mrs. Del Duca collects stuffed frogs.
So far, the fund is up to $6,000, with a goal of $25,000.
Del Duca says she cried the first time she saw the tree. It reminded her how important the students are in her fight to survive.
"It definitely boosts my energy to so this. The fight, I know I'm not in it by myself, I know that my friends and family want me to fight and they're fighting with me," she said.
You can help too. You can contribute by writing a check to The Jewely Del Duca Fund at any Bellco Credit Union.
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