Moise Brutus is having a good holiday, thanks to the generosity of our readers.
The spirited 22-year-old, left a triple amputee after surviving a motorcycle accident that almost cost him his life, has set his sights on competing in cycling at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil. He bikes 20 to 30 miles six times a week, training he fits in while attending Miami Dade College five days a week. His biggest challenge has been shuttling between practice and school.
Soon, it will be one less hurdle. After reading his story in The Miami Herald’s annual Wish Book series, an anonymous donor is buying Brutus a new silver Suzuki Kizashi. To help Brutus train, Mack Cycle is donating a new bicycle and a heart monitor.
“This is like the last step for me in this chapter,” Brutus said of the support from Wish Book donors. “This has really taught me a valuable lesson. The most important thing ever is really if you can, if you’re in a position to help somebody, you always help. I will definitely be giving back.”
It’s a powerful testament to the largesse of our readers, who have helped thousands of our neediest neighbors over 31 years.
Even in the midst of a still-wavering economy, the outpouring this year is as strong as ever.
Our readers have responded to needs large and small.
Carmen Debesa, a single mother struggling to care for her disabled 22-year-old daughter Carolina, wanted to replace the stained and lumpy mattress they share. Thirty minutes after the story was posted on MiamiHerald.com, Mattress One had already come forward to provide the mattress. A reader provided gas gift cards to help with Debesa’s long commute to work. Another bought the family a Christmas tree.
The Buraschi Serpa family needed a wheelchair ramp to the entrance of their home for their 4-year-old son Alessio, who was born a paraplegic, blind and with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. A contractor came forward to do the work.
“It brings people together this time of year,” said Roberta DiPietro, who has been coordinating the Wish Book campaign for 18 years. “Readers feel a connection to a story and they want to help. It’s great we still have that.”
From Thanksgiving Day through mid-January, The Herald will share more than 40 stories of individuals and families who were nominated for help by social service agencies. Those stories represent only a sampling of the 650 people we are trying to help this year.
Topping the needs list are car repairs, furniture, gas cards, medical equipment like wheelchairs and van lifts, home repairs, appliances, housing assistance and wheelchair-accessible vans.
Suburban Editor Joan Chrissos oversees the Wish Book project in the newsroom, working with reporters who volunteer to write the stories. A personal believer in helping others — she and her family travel to Honduras every summer to volunteer at a home and school for abused and abandoned girls — Chrissos said Wish Book is one of her most fulfilling work assignments.
“It makes a difference,” she said. “It’s why we became journalists, to make a difference. That’s what Wish Book does.”