December 28, 2013

Through the Wish Book, you help your neighbors in a special way

Every year between Thanksgiving and the second week of the New Year, we work together to make holiday magic in South Florida.

Every year between Thanksgiving and the second week of the New Year, we work together to make holiday magic in South Florida.

We have a unique partnership — the Miami Herald and you, our readers — and nothing reflects it better than the annual holiday Wish Book campaign.

Case in point: Last Sunday, as part of the 2013 Wish Book, reporter Michelle Kaufman told the story of Camille Hamilton, a visitor from Jamaica who four years ago brought her 15-year-old daughter to South Florida on a shopping trip that ended in tragedy. Here to buy a Sweet Sixteen dress and party favors, Hamilton, her daughter and two friends were victims of an armed robbery. Only Camille Hamilton survived, as Kaufman wrote, “partially deaf and blind and scarred forever.’’

Kaufman recounted Hamilton’s struggle since then — trying to cope with the loss of her daughter, undergoing seven surgeries, and dealing with a visa restriction that prevents her from visiting her mother in Jamaica or her daughter’s grave.

Miramar lawyer Dahlia Walker read the story. Walker is president of Jamaican Women of Florida, and a lawyer specializing in immigration. She pledged to work on Hamilton’s case.

Kaufman usually deals with athletes, some tough, some gentle, many wealthy and almost all strong. The story of Camille Hamilton — and the community response — touched her in a special way.

“Wow, all I can say is, Wow!” said Kaufman.

“That’s the power of the Miami Herald to make this happen,” Walker told our Wish Book coordinator, Roberta DiPietro.

And the power of the partnership with you.

The Herald has been working with you to help the needy in our community since 1952, when it began the Lend-A-Hand Fund. In 1983, we published our first Wish Book — then a magazine delivered on Thanksgiving that told stories of South Floridians who needed help — money, services, expertise — from Herald readers. In 1995, we transitioned from a magazine published on one day to a series of stories published throughout the holiday season.

Last year, your contributions helped grant all or part of more than 800 wishes. The Wish Book, managed by Miami Herald Charities, raised $325,000 and received more than $140,000 in goods and services, DiPietro said. And “many items could not be valued, including the donation of a kidney,’’ she said.

We started our 2013 Wish Book effort on Thanksgiving Day; by the time we publish our last profile in the next few weeks, we’ll have told some 30 stories of need in South Florida. Our goal is to touch your hearts, and draw out the compassion and spirit of giving that so exemplifies South Florida. We have 175 nominations involving more than 750 people whose needs we hope to serve, DiPietro said.

In addition to Camille Hamilton’s story, we told you about Delia Tafur, a former basketball coach who lost her legs when an out-of-control car hit her at a Miami Gardens bus stop. You learned about Hildebran Companioni, a 19-year-old with cerebral palsy who wants a computer that will enable him to download music. You heard of Ernie Calixte, a legally blind Pembroke Pines man who wants software that can help him read.

Telling those stories has a significant impact on the reporters and editors who reported and wrote them. Rosemary Clarke, our lead Wish Book editor, called the work on the project “humbling.

“Every day we see how people’s lives are upended in the news; this gives us a chance to lend a hand,’’ said Clarke, who assigned and edited most of the stories. The work is special, she said.

“I’ve had reporters say, thank you for assigning me to this; it was really gratifying,’’ she said.

To read the entire collection of 2013 Wish Book stories, go You can make a contribution there, or by cell phone by texting WISH to 41444. You can see an exhibit on the Wish Book at Aventura Mall, which has embraced this community project by providing space and urging contributions through its @aventuramall Twitter account.

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