He is super happy, said his mother, Maria Madrigal. And we, his family, are happy for him because we see him more independent and feeling good about himself.
Elin is now able to play with his friends without mom and dad hanging around. He also is able to roam stores and look at merchandise without help.
Last year, Aaron Harrigan unbottled his grief to tell his story of losing his fiancé, Antoinette Sutton, just a week after she gave birth to their daughter, Liana. Sutton died from childbirth complications and a staph infection, at just 25.
Harrigan, then 27 and in remission for lymphoma, was left heartbroken and a single dad. Without Suttons income, he and Liana became homeless for a short time, before being able to move into subsidized housing in Homestead.
Harrigans wish was for a safe car to take Liana to her pediatrician visits and to attend college classes. He got the Sonata he wished for, a 2007 model donated by Lehman Hyundai. And high school classmates who mobilized on Facebook helped collect needed baby toys and clothes.
Its still a struggle; every time I look at Liana I see her mother, Harrigan said at his home while Liana was being fed by Harrigans mother.
But Im thankful for the car, he said. This year has been much better than last year. I know I have to keep trying for my daughter.
Last years donations helped some people get much needed joy in the form of simpler wishes: Michael Jordan sneakers, electric drums, and a Christmas tree.
In December 1982, The Miami Herald published its first Wish Book to offer its readers the opportunity to make a difference in a neighbors life. Since then, readers of The Miami Herald and Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald have donated several million dollars to help some of the neediest people in our community.
What is totally unique and a lot different than any other charity is the way we present a person and need and humanize it, Landsberg said. People see an individual need, relate to that need and are compelled to help.
In early October, more than 600 non-profit social agencies in South Florida were contacted to nominate candidates for Wish Book. The candidates are people who have been helped by the agency, but who have needs that go beyond the resources of that agency.
The Wish Book team screens the nominees. This year there are 180, representing more than 900 people. Its the largest pool ever.
In the weeks leading up to New Years Day, some of the nominees stories will be featured in The Herald and El Nuevo Herald and on the newspapers websites.
They will include: Moise Brutus, a triple amputee, who nearly died in a motorcycle accident. Hes learned to ride a bicycle, but needs a handicap-adapted vehicle in order to attend college.
Layla Paul, a 15-month old girl, has a complex heart defect: hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She already has undergone five surgeries, including two on her heart and one to implant a pacemaker. She went into heart failure on May 26th and has been in the hospital ever since. Her parents hope she will get a life-saving heart transplant.
And theres Dannielle Jones, 18, who has been bounced around from relative to relative until landing in foster care last year. Through it all, she has studied hard to get good grades. In the spring, she graduated from high school at age17 and spent the summer working to support herself and save money for college books. Shes now a freshman at Florida Atlantic University, pursuing a career in medicine, and with no family support could use some help.
Ernest Leo wants people to know that hes thankful for the help he and his daughter received through Wish Book. He said the warehouse job enabled him to stabilize his life and move into a safer apartment with two bedrooms. In September, he married a woman he met while studying at college.
I explain to my daughter this is a great country, he said. If you stay positive, you can have a better future and a better life. People have helped us here and one day I hope I can pay it back.
Miami Herald writer Alexandra Leon contributed to this report.