Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Holiday Hopes

Holiday Hopes: How wishes were granted

Today we unwrap the results of our fifth annual Holiday Hopes series, in which we featured four Hillsborough families in need. We asked each to make a wish. You, dear readers, granted them all and then some. You called with solutions and offers to help.

So, how does it feel to play Santa?

Laptop a portal to artist's dreams

Sara Evans, 23, is a budding artist who takes painting classes once a week at Pyramid, a training center in Tampa for people with developmental disabilities. She had been saving her money from a part-time job to expand her art and music career. She "really, really, really" wanted a Mac laptop to help her become a self-supporting artist.

After her story ran Nov. 26, donations poured in to Pyramid on Evans' behalf. She will use the money to support her arts education, said the center's visual arts coordinator Bob Terri, who was unsure of the exact total this week. Local advertising company C3 Media also stepped up to answer her wish. Chris Koch, the company's president, opted to buy the laptop on behalf of his clients instead of the gift certificates or bottles of wine he typically sends out.

"We were so glad to be able to do this," Koch said Tuesday morning after he presented the Mac Book Pro laptop to Evans. She named her new computer Angel.

Covering expenses

Shawny Duncan and her eight children are trying to find their "new normal" after Brian Duncan died of a heart attack two days after Thanksgiving. The husband and father had been recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, and had been unable to work full time. The Duncans said in a Dec. 17 article that they needed help with everyday living expenses. Shawny Duncan wanted a stable home to raise and homeschool her children, ages 10 months to 16.

This week, checks totaling $3,570 had arrived for the Duncans in the mailbox at the Greater Brandon Community Foundation. Callers promised more, said Anne Nymark, of the foundation, including one caller who offered to cover rent for a year.

A ramp to the world

Billie Dougherty had been imprisoned in her home for months, unable to get past the four steps outside the front door. Overweight and struggling with other ailments, she told readers in an article Dec. 10 that she needed a ramp for her wheelchair.

And on Monday, a six-man crew built one for her. On Tuesday, she rolled out her front door for the first time in three months.

"I'm going out to do my own Christmas shopping," said Dougherty. She had been looking at advertisements and sending her mom to get gifts for family members. Five contractors offered to build the ramp for free and dozens of readers donated more than $4,000 in cash to Citylife Church on Central Avenue on Dougherty's behalf. The money exceeded the amount needed to cover ramp materials. Dougherty said she will use what's left over for a weight loss program.

A nonprofit foundation

After their 2-year-old son, Ezra, died in November, Kyle and Robyn Matthews decided to start a foundation with the goal of curing pediatric cancer. They had chronicled his yearlong fight against cancer on a blog, visited by hundreds of thousands of readers. Then they told how the journey had increased their faith in a Dec. 3 Holiday Hopes article.

As of this week, the Matthewses had received about $200 in checks and a dozen e-mails. The family took a much-needed vacation — 12 days on a mountaintop in Greece — and returned last week. They plan to start working on their nonprofit foundation, which will officially accept donations beginning Jan. 1 at

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

Holiday Hopes: How wishes were granted 12/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]