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TAYLORSVILLE — Sometimes a miracle is something that comes packaged in a box, bringing a smile to a child's face when the world seems to be at its most dismal.
It is a small miracle, but one that may be just enough to keep a child fighting when it would be easier to just give up. It is called a Miracle Box.
The idea for the Miracle Box came to Michelle Pettus as she was visiting a friend's 8-year-old niece who was in the hospital with leukemia. Pettus said the girl was "bored and just sitting there, doing nothing."
"I remembered I had some coloring books and games at home," Pettus said. "So I went home and got them and returned back to the hospital with them. Her eyes lit up when I handed them to her."
Her reaction inspired Pettus to start a Miracle Box charity, where boxes filled with things children love would be given to sick children spending their time at the hospital instead of at home with family and friends.
"I thought many other children could benefit from this as well," she said. "Something as simple as a book and crayons or a few toys can change a child's life when things in their life are already going so wrong."
The University of Phoenix healthcare administration student works two jobs and does not have a lot of spare time, but decided to devote what time she could to her new charity work.
She began filling shoe boxes with toys, books, crayons and "anything a child may like" and taking the boxes to local hospitals. She said the reactions of the children are "wonderful."
"The light in their eyes is something that is inexpressible," she said. "It is their chance to not worry about their illness or their lifestyle, and just have something that is about them."
So far, Pettus has put together and delivered 50 boxes with the help of donations from friends. She said she has no plans to stop any time soon, because to her, there is no greater gift than to see a smile on a child's face.
As long as the donations keep coming, she will have children to help: Primary Children's Hospital alone sees about 17,000 inpatient stays per year, with an average stay of four days. Some don't spend more than a day at the hospital and go home healthy; others see their lives uprooted and have to make a new home at the hospital for an extended period of time.
Sometimes they miss out on trick-or-treating or seeing presents under a Christmas tree — treasured childhood experiences for many that have been replaced with hospital visits.
"The holiday season is coming which makes this event even more special," Pettus said. "I could always use more help, and with every box is a child's smile."
Donations of supplies or money can be made directly to Pettus, who can be reached at 801-707-4689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.