Camille Hamilton has a long way to go on her journey toward recovery.
A vicious, random attack that left a bullet lodged in her head, that stole the lives of her only child, her best friend and her friends son, is so horrific that its reverberations will continue to haunt.
But Hamilton, now living in a gated community in Palm Beach County, has reason for hope.
The Miami Herald told Hamiltons story in December as part of its 2013 Wish Book series. As a result, one of her most fervent wishes, to see her own mother again, may soon happen.
Hamiltons mother, Dawn Ryan lives in Jamaica and had been unable to obtain a visa to come to America to help care for her daughter temporarily. Ryan should have her visa in February, Hamilton happily reports, as she thanks a team of supporters who rallied for her.
Tania Rues of the Miramar Police Department nominated Hamilton for Wish Book.
We always felt Camille was so deserving, Rues said. She has gone through a difficult time and still has a lot more ahead of her. Having her mother here, at least for a brief period of time, will give her some support.
Readers were so touched by 30 or so stories like Hamiltons that they helped Wish Book collect $308,000 plus another $50,000 in pledges and $75,000 in goods and services to assist 176 families.
Stories like these are why we do the Wish Book, said Rosemary Clarke, the Miami Herald editor who was in charge of assignments this year. Many reporters were gratified to help people in need in a direct way. Some received responses very quickly in some cases, only hours after the stories were posted online at miamiherald.com.
Some people asked Wish Book for big-ticket items but Clarke was surprised that many of the requests, for things like clothing, toys and diapers, seemed so humble.
It takes very little to offer a helping hand, she said.
Bernie Winer was one of those readers who quickly responded hours after reading the December story about the Reeves family, Donald and his wife Darlyn. The Hollywood couple faced many challenges over 58 years of marriage and triumphed through a fierce devotion to one another.
Donald, 77, suffered a second stroke in 2009, followed by heart surgery with aortic valve replacement and a double bypass. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung disease which makes breathing difficult, and respiratory failure in 2012, left him requiring constant oxygen.
Bed- and chair-bound, he gets by with help from his daughter and her husband, and a caretaker during the week.
But the bulk of his care comes from wife Darlyn, 76. Among other needs, Donald needed a portable oxygen tank so that he could have a chance at mobility. A life-saver, his family told Wish Book.
Winer recognized his own story in the Reeves tale.
My wife Rose passed away from lung cancer in April. Way too young at 61, he said.
Rose Winer endured a nine-year battle with lung and breast cancer and had stage 4 COPD. Her portable oxygen tank, which plugs into the cars cigarette lighter, allowed the couple to take a cross country road trip to Nashville.
That trip left a loving, lasting memory.
When she passed away I said, Im going to hold on to this until someone needs it. I saw this story and it was my wife all over again. This freed her up to enjoy her last couple years, Winer said. I told my children I was going to give this oxygen to this gentleman.
The Reeves are grateful.
He loves it and it gives us so much more freedom, Darlyn said. It is great.
Im doing pretty good, Donald added. I tell you, that makes the world of difference. Weve been going to church the last three Sundays and today I left to go shopping. You charge it up and it lasts all day.
Readers also met Adaeze Amaram, a woman with four children who escaped an abusive husband. She told her story because, Hate and violence transcends income and I know there are others who share some aspect of my story. I hope by telling it, it might help so people can get free.
Her wish: a job to help support her four children who range in age from 4 to 10. She is a certified public accountant. After her story ran in January a job offer came along and readers donated a dining room set and bicycles for her kids.
Were very appreciative, very thankful and blessed, said Amaram, who started her new job last week
Readers delivered again when Rose Augustin, a Plantation mom, wished for help in caring for her 7-year-old son, Nathaniel, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Surgery damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Nathaniel, an energetic younger, used his strong arms to execute flips on the floor when he got news of the generosity from individuals and private companies, even Plantations Peters Elementary Schools PTA, where he is a second grader.
The community showered the family with gifts: a new queen-size bed to replace a lumpy old mattress. An iPad. New car tires. Clothes. Shoes. A laptop.
Wish Book coordinator Roberta DiPietro was pleased with the outcome of the 2013-14 campaign that included a new partnership with Aventura Mall. The mall featured the stories in stations on its grounds and promoted a Text to Give initiative.
It was a great year, DiPietro said, estimating that the funds topped last years by about $15,000, despite a shorter holiday season since Thanksgiving fell later in the year.
Many needy individuals were helped by a very generous and caring community. It is always uplifting to see the enthusiastic response from the readers as they reach out to help others.
Wish Book, managed by Miami Herald Charities, has been a holiday staple of the paper for 32 years.
The unique part of this charity is that it identifies individual need and works to fill those individual needs one to one, said Miami Herald Publisher David Landsberg, who was also was touched by readers support. And that is something that donors really seem to connect with. Landsberg said.
The newspaper forum is another asset, the publisher believes. Extremely talented reporters shed light on each one of these cases. Caring and journalism skills drives an even greater response and thats another thing we bring to the table that couldnt be done elsewhere.