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Readers respond to Holiday Hopes needs

Every year, we profile people in need who dare to wish during the holiday season. And every year, you, the readers, step up to help. This year, readers didn't let tough economic times stand in the way of wishes. You gave with your usual enthusiasm and generosity to continue the success of the Holiday Hopes series. Thank you.

A dress and a cake

Jacqueline Ventura, 14, is approaching that special birthday in her culture when a girl becomes a senorita. But amid her everyday struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder with psychotic features, she feels more stuck at 11 than about to turn 15.

She wished for a pink dress and a cake so that she could feel like any other quinceanera.

Of the response, said Cindy Mendez, Jackie's social worker at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, "We've been blown away."

Mendez had an immediate assortment of pink dresses for Jackie to choose from, and a cake that will hold 15 candles on her birthday in January.

Wonderful wedding

Roseline Hester, 28, escaped violence in Haiti as a child. And then she escaped an abusive husband with her infant and not much else.

While homeless, she gained legal immigration status and studied to become a nurse.

This month, the day after she graduated with a nursing degree, she married Greg Francoeur, a fellow Haitian immigrant who helped her love again. She wished for a wedding reception, to celebrate the new chapter in her life.

A photographer and videographer provided free services to commemorate the occasion, and someone provided the wedding cake.

"With all the help that we received from the community, our wedding was a dream come true," Rose said. "God has blessed us beyond our expectations. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our union."

Peaceful passing

In the saddest Holiday Hopes story to date, we introduced readers to 4-year-old Jesus Mauricio, whose yearlong battle with kidney and liver cancer left his parents wishing for only a miracle, that he'd survive to see Christmas.

And that if he did die, that he would not suffer.

Jesus died the morning the story ran. But hospice nurses worked to control his pain, said LifePath Hospice spokeswoman Patty Klein.

"He died peacefully," she said.

Readers still responded, with a great outpouring of support for his family.

Three businesses arranged their dinners. An advertising agency arranged a movie outing for his sisters. A man dressed as Spider-Man, Jesus' hero, went to his funeral.

The Edgar Guzman Law Group arranged a trust fund for the family.

His family is grateful, Klein said. "They realized there were people in the community who cared about Jesus."

Alexandra Zayas, Times staff writer

Past stories To read this year's Holiday Hopes series, visit links.tampabay.com

Readers respond to Holiday Hopes needs 12/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 25, 2008 3:30am]
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