They have arrived from around the nation and from far off lands as well: Hundreds of postcards sent by strangers to brighten the day of a 3-year-old girl with terminal brain cancer and to help show her the world.
“I like my postcards,” Ellie Walton told TODAY.com. “They make me happy.”
Ellie became enamored with postcards last year when one arrived in the mail from her great-grandparents who live in Arizona. The postcard featured a picture of a donkey.
“Ellie thought it was the coolest thing to get a donkey in the mail,” said her mother, Sarah Walton. “She’s in love with animals.”
Ellie, who has spent much of her young life in the hospital, wanted more postcards, so Walton asked friends if they would be able to send them from their vacation spots. Walton also asked fans of the Prayers for Ellie Facebook page for postcards for Ellie and her big sister, Ava.
Since then, an estimated 500 postcards have arrived from virtually every state in the country, as well as from Russia, Japan, Finland and Germany, filled with well wishes for Ellie. As the postcards pile in, Ellie is seeing the world beyond her Spanaway, Washington, home, a bittersweet thought for her mom.
“It’s hard for us because she may not be able to ever see places like that, so it’s definitely something where she can see the world without having to leave her home,” Walton said.
The postcards have become a family affair, and both girls love getting the cards. Ava, who is almost 7, reads the cards to Ellie, and enjoys learning about each new location.
“They get super excited and they very much look forward to getting the postcards,” Walton said. “The kids play with the postcards like they’re toys.”
For Walton and her husband, Kyle, the cards and their messages represent hope.
“It’s moving because everybody is writing things on there that tug at our heartstrings, telling us how brave she is and they’re praying for her,” Walton said. “Every postcard to me and my husband is just another prayer for her and wanting her to win this.”
“There are so many people out there hoping she gets better,” she added. “It’s going to make her stronger.”
Ellie was diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumor when she was 4 months old. She has undergone 17 surgeries and nine rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. In June, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive stage 4 malignancy, and the family was told it had a five percent survival rate.
“It’s not terminal for her, not in my eyes,” Walton says. “She’s so strong.”
Walton is grateful for the small acts of kindness that are being sent by strangers.
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“It’s just people we’ve never met that are there for our family,” she said. “Just knowing there are people out there that care is just amazing. There are definitely still a lot of good people left in this world.”
Postcards can be sent to: P.O. Box 5094 Spanaway, WA 98387
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @lisaflam