A few weeks ago, Joe Abrahams got a chain letter asking him to help a 10-year-old English boy with brain cancer get a record number of get-well cards. So Abrahams, a Tampa city official, mailed a card to Craig Shergold in Surrey, England. Then he passed the chain letter with the sick boy's request to Steve LaBour, who edits a newsletter for the city's 4,500 workers. LaBour published the boy's address in the current newsletter.
"I personally know of a couple of people who sent letters," LaBour said.
There's just one problem. Craig's family wants the mail to stop.
The family has been trying to break the worldwide chain letter, but can't seem to do so. An estimated 15,000 letters pour in each day, adding to the more than 16.2-million cards already sent. The deluge broke an old Guinness Book of World Records mark of 1.3-million cards.
All of the mail must be opened because some envelopes contain cash and gifts, the family said. At one point, Craig's mother spent 10 hours a day opening the letters. Friends and neighbors gathered in a local club where they opened thousands of letters.
The boy's father, London truck driver Ernie Shergold, had his phone number unlisted, and the family asked the Associated Press in London to get the word out: Don't write to Craig.
Abrahams, Tampa's administrator of parks, recreation and cultural services, said he was added to a chain letter that has circulated through the sports world, he said. Among those who have become involved: the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox, the Orange Bowl Committee and the Sunshine State Games.
LaBour said he discovered after he printed the chain letter in his newsletter that the family has had enough.
"It's one of those things where you hate to tell people not to (send cards) if they really want to," LaBour said.