[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                           Z E P H Y R
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 Issue #50               11-27-87
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                        THE ZEPHYR II BBS 
                    (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1987

   Fair warning. My goal is to tear your heart to shreds. And 
I'll be ashamed of anyone who can make it through this issue 
without wanting to grab the phone with an offer to help. 
   If you can survive this issue untouched, you're a cold-
hearted, self-centered SOB. 
   Imagine a 4-year-old girl who was born with a hole in 
her heart. She's dead. 
   Imagine a hundred children who have lived 7 or fewer years, 
not a one of them normally, and for whom this is the last 
   Imagine yourself being told, even now, that you're terminal. 
No more Chr.shtmlas seasons. You won't even be alive for Easter. 
And imagine yourself being just 4 or 5 when you get this news. 
   This is the story of a group called, "Santa's Little Heroes." 
It doesn't exist in an official capacity. There are no offices, 
no phone number, not even any letterheads. It consists solely 
of concerned volunteers. 
   It also consists of something very much like magic.

                      SANTA'S LITTLE HEROES

   In 1949 a child was born. He was given the name Larry by his 
parents. He was given something else. Something less desirable. 
Larry was born with a defect. He had no esophogus. 
   It became apparent rather quickly that something was just not 
right. Over and over, the child was rushed to the hospital. The 
examinations were cursory, at best. 
   There was another problem. His family was poor. They couldn't 
afford to pay the doctors or hospitals. What little health 
insurance they possessed had long since been used up. So, they 
became the "victims" of state provided health care, complete 
with such odd things as an "Emergency Waiting List." A 
contradiction in terms. 
   Larry survived. Not well, but he survived. Today he still 
suffers at least a dozen life-threatening emergencies per year, 
necessitating the mad rush for the hospital while the paramedics 
struggle to keep him alive that long. 
   He can't hold a secure full-time job. Can't get health insurance 
of any kind. Can't live a "normal" life. 
   What he leads is an abnormal life. More accurately, it's 
   Six years ago Larry was married to Amy. She became pregnant. 
All the fears came flooding back. Night after sleepless night 
he lay in bed, envisioning a deformed child - deformed by his 
own genetics. 
   A little over four years ago the child was born. Larry cried 
for two days. He cried with joy. Their little girl was healthy 
and strong. 
   After the birth Larry made a decision. He knew from first hand 
experience what it meant to be born with medical problems, and 
how true was the old adage, "When you have your health, you have 
everything." He thought about the pain and suffering he'd gone 
through, and the fears that his child would be medically crippled 
as he was. 
   More, he thought about the millions of children born with 
severe illnesses. He'd seen is already poor family become 
even more destitute in trying to pay the doctors and hospitals. 
   He decided to do something about it. 
   He was essentially unemployed. There was no way he could help 
a needy child from his pocket. That pocket was shallow and all 
but empty. (It still is.) 
   Larry threw his heart and soul into what he calls "Santa's 
Little Heroes." The organization - if you can call it that - is 
now in its 4th year. 
   Imagine the reality of it. A poor or middle class family is 
unfortunate enough to have a child with medical problems. What 
little they have goes to further line the pockets of the great 
medical complex. When their money and insurance disappears, so 
does the care. 
   As I write this, I just got off the phone with Larry. He in 
turn had just gotten off the phone with the parents of a deathly 
ill child. Everything they had is gone. There's nothing left, and 
as is the family will be working the rest of their lives to pay 
off just the existing medical bills. But the child is still 
sick. They now have a choice.
   They can let their 5-year-old child die. Or they can sign 
over to the state any and all rights from now on, and make the 
child - THEIR CHILD - a ward of the state. Imagine yourself 
facing that reality. To keep your child alive you have to lose 
your child. There are no other options.
   Two hours earlier he dropped everything to get to the side 
of a 4-year-old girl who had been born with a hole in her heart. 
The patch had failed. As he held her, she died.
   For these families, there is often no Chr.shtmlas. There's no 
money left to have one. Every cent has gone to trying to keep the 
child alive. Nothing remains to buy that child, or any other 
member of the family, so much as a pair of new socks.
   Larry lived it for himself. He continues to live it.
   The first year, he hosted a party for 178 severely ill children. 
He spent months raising funds and digging out sponsors so that the 
178 and their families would have at least some Chr.shtmlas. 
   The second year took care of 235 kids; and 433 last year. This 
year at least 450 will be helped. Next year?
   The numbers grow. The numbers decrease. 
   Each year there are more children and more families in trouble. 
Medical costs continue to soar, as to insurance rates. Each year 
more families reach the limit and have nothing left.
   And each year more of the children die. Many of the children 
at this year's party won't be alive next year.
   One of the "Heroes" from this year is 6-year-old Timmy. He has 
cystic fibrosis. Life expectancy? He won't live to see Easter. He 
won't be here for the party next Chr.shtmlas. He won't even live 
long enough to see Big Surf open again.
   Yet Timmy lives with a dream. He loves the idea of space and 
astronautics. He'll never see it. Timmy won't see the coming of 
Spring, for Gods sake!
   Larry contacted the Air Force, NASA and a variety of other groups. 
Timmy's last Chr.shtmlas will consist of a visit from Astronaut Ron 
Evans, dressed in full gear and carrying - for Timmy - things that 
either came from space or that went there.
   Watching will be several hundred children, confined to wheel 
chairs if they're lucky. Trapped inside respirators and other 
life support systems if not. For many of them, this will be the 
last Chr.shtmlas. For all of them, this party will be the only 
Chr.shtmlas they'll have because their families are broke.

   The miracle of this organization is that it is 100% voluntary. 
When a donation comes in, every penny goes to the children. It 
is operated by volunteers, many of them ham radio operators.  
Overhead expenses are either donated by the companies and 
individuals who help, or are footed personally by the volunteers.
(For example, any and all long distance calls go straight onto 
Larry's phone bill.) Even the paper used to write letters to 
potential sponsors is donated.
   The group is not officially "recognized." It isn't incorporated, 
has no office, has no standing even as an organization. In a 
legal sense, it doesn't exist. 
   In a more real sense, it distinctly exists. The deeper I get 
involved, the more it seems like magic. 
   Last year a 7-year-old boy was diagnosed as having a tumor. 
It had wrapped itself around the optic nerve. Unfortunately, the 
boy's family was poor. No money. No insurance. They were put on 
what is called "an emergency waiting list." 
   Talk about a contradiction in terms!
   Larry decided that this couldn't be allowed. He made a few 
comments about the situation to sponsors, more an example than 
as a plea for help. Those sponsors got on the phone and within 
just 6 hours a medical team in Boston had agree to do all the 
testing and any needed surgery without any charge. Meanwhile, 
word reached an officer in America Airlines. They offered to 
fly the boy and his family to Boston. They'd even arranged to 
have a hotel in Boston donate a room and meals for the family. 
   Two days after Larry heard about the problem, the boy was 
in Boston. Tests showed the tumor to be benign, but still 
dangerous. Surgery was performed immediately. 
   That boy is healthy today as a result. There is a 40% loss 
of sight in that eye, primarily due to the months of wading 
through red tape that caused the wait. It was also determined 
that had the condition continued for another month, such as 
would have happened with the "emergency waiting list" condition, 
he would have lost that eye, and possibly his life.
   This year a call came in from the parents of a terminal 
child. All the boy wanted was a Teddy Ruxpin. The family didn't 
have even the $50 needed. As is so typical, even with their 
request they said, "We'll understand if it isn't possible."
   Getting *a* Teddy Ruxpin is no problem. Through the efforts 
of the group (and especially Larry), Target opens its warehouse 
to us each year just before the party. As much as is needed 
is provided at cost.
   That wasn't enough. Larry got on the phone and called John 
Borg at World of Wonder (the home of Teddy Ruxpin). Not only 
will there be a supply of Teddy Ruxpins for the children, 
donated by the company, Teddy Ruxpin himself (John Borg in a 
specially made costume) will be there.
   It didn't stop there. America West will be flying him in, 
free. Westcourt will be putting him up, free.
   The situation for sick children in America is bad. It's 
even worse elsewhere in the world. Larry read about how things 
were in Saudi Arabia. He called the Saudi embassy. All the red 
tape evaporated. Instantly. 
   The ambassador and a team of doctors will attend the party. 
They're also working with pediatricians and emergency facilities 
all across the country. This knowledge will go back to Saudi 
Arabia, where it will help children there. All that blossomed - 
exploded! - from a single phone call. It hadn't been done before, 
for the simple reason that no one had thought of it, or had 
resisted the idea due to the flood of red tape involved. 
   As most of you know (or have guessed), I'm a ham radio 
operator. One method of communication is to use what is called 
a repeater. This device picks up an incoming signal, amplifies 
it and transmits it again. The area of coverage is thus greatly 
   There is a remarkable system called Zia. A series of repeaters 
are linked (by radio). The system extends from Texas to California. 
I can be driving in my car here in the Valley and have a crystal 
clear conversation with another ham in El Paso or Albequerque.
   A group of us get together on the radio regularly. We talk 
about everything and anything. We became close enough friends 
that we started having a yearly dinner. 
   One night we were on the air talking about the dinner. Larry, 
also a ham operator, was listening in. Then he joined the 
conversation. He got the idea that our group was more official, 
and not just a group of friends. 
   There was a problem. Each year he gets volunteers to handle 
certain tasks. And each year about half fail to even show up. They 
have better things to do. Or they volunteer in a bout of emotion 
after hearing about "Santa's Little Heroes" and later decide 
that it's too much. 
   The same was already happening this year. Larry needed help 
   And he got it. 
   One of our group is a professional photographer, to the point 
that when you watch movies of even something as old as World 
War II, chances are pretty good that you've seen some the footage 
he shot. Frank didn't hesitate one second to volunteer his time 
and skills to photograph not just the party but also anything 
else that needed to be shot throughout the year. In addition, he 
began making contacts of his own with various important people 
he knows. 
   Just about everyone here knows that I am a professional writer 
and photographer. One of the things I'll be doing is what you 
see here. Writing articles to spread the word. To let people 
know. (Another is to handle publicity and also to work as press 
liason, and to serve as a buffer between Larry and the press.)
   Other hams jumped in and offered other things. I know most 
of them personally, and know that they will do what they say. 
   No, I'm not asking for donations. (That doesn't mean that 
donations wouldn't be welcome. Money is always in short supply, 
especially with a group that officially doesn't exist.)
   I'm not asking you to give up your time to come help (although 
that, too, would be welcome).
   If you care to help out, let me know. Maybe one of you has a 
contact that would be valuable. One of you might work for a 
printer, and can talk him into donating letterheads and envelopes. 
Perhaps you're good with a hammer and can show up to help set 
up the decorations, and to come back to help take them down. 
   But I'm not asking for anything from any one of you. (I 
certainly don't want false promises that won't be kept.) 
   The reason for this issue is to make you aware. Maybe to 
touch you so that one day you'll give of yourself to someone 
who needs it. 
   This Chr.shtmlas, make friends with someone who has been an 
enemy. Take an hour out of your oh-so-busy schedule and visit 
an old folks home. Give St. Vincent de Paul a call and volunteer 
a few hours of your time to help. Instead of sticking a quarter 
(or nothing) in the Salvation Army bucket, tuck in a $5 bill. 
   Spend December not getting mad at anyone. If someone cuts you 
off on the road, smile instead of lifting your finger. 
   Or just spread the story about "Santa's Little Heroes." How 
a hodge-podge group of people have been able to pull off miracles 
simply because it needs to be done. And that the world is not 
such a sorry place afterall.
   There are so many ways. Some simple. Some not so simple. (I'm 
probably going to be totally nonfunctional before this thing with 
"Santa's Little Heroes" is over.)
   Maybe you have something unique to share with us. Go to it! 

   Thanksgiving is just past. (How many of us are really thankful 
for what we have? Think about Timmy. 6, and will never be 7. Think 
about Anna. Dead at 4 from heart failure.)
   Chr.shtmlas is a month away. There's no better time to start. Not 
unless you start as of last Chr.shtmlas. 
   But you know what the sad fact is? Most of you won't do a thing. 
That's not pessimism. It's fact. A few years ago we held a BBS 
gathering. Its purpose was a standard GT (get together), but not 
quite so standard. It was also to raise food and money. Tempe 
allowed the use of a room so we could stay warm. Refreshments 
were available, free. 
   And yet it was one of the least attended GWGTs. We managed to 
raise just slightly over $30 ($15 of which was mine, and $10 of 
which was from Neighborhood Pro - the remaining $5 and odd cents 
came from everyone else) and 3 grocery bags of canned goods.
   Chris Mitchell came after spending hours on the air. He brought 
with him a box full of records and other things for those who'd 
bothered to come. They weren't the newest releases. Several times 
I heard, "Is this all we get?"
   Frustrating, to say the least, especially when the BBS was 
filled with messages of a new $200 modem as a stocking stuffer.
   Yes, I have to admit that I'm hoping to give you a sense of 
shame. We have several hundred users who read the magazine. If 
I could talk each of you into donating just $5 and/or 2 hours 
of your time, think of the good it would do. Expand on that. 
   Each of you convinces two friends to do the same, and each 
of them convinces two other friends. 
   Each of you does a good deed of some kind. The recipient does 
the same for two others, and they for two others. 
   One final story and you can trot to the bathroom and get 
sick from all the gushy sweetness.
   Last year I went grocery shopping. There was a huge crowd. 
Everyone seemed to be in a bad mood. The cashier had a scowl on 
her face and was barking at the baggers. 
   I refuse to let such things ruin my Chr.shtmlas. I had two 
carts full of groceries - much of it stuff for my baby boy. I 
was having a great time! 
   Behind me was an elderly lady with maybe a dozen items in her 
cart. I told her to go ahead. No big deal. 
   Behind her was a young mother holding a baby. I told her to 
go ahead. Her weary response was that I'd already let one person 
go ahead. I simply said, "By the time I get all this stuff unloaded 
from the carts, both of you will be through and gone."
   She went. Then a third. And finally I'd unloaded most of the 
stuff and the cashier was checking it through. I looked up, and 
there was the elderly lady. She turned to the still scowling 
cashier and said, "Don't you DARE give that young man a hard time!
And I'm going to stand right here and make sure you don't!"
   The young mother spun her cart around and joined in. (That 
third person, turned, smiled at my embarrassment, and left.) 
   To make it worse yet, the ruckus was noticed at the next 
checkout. People there were looking over at us. That spread 
to the next checkout. 
   The cashier looked up at me with a vicious scowl. Then she 
started laughing. "I know this guy," she said. "I'm not going 
to give him a hard time." She even put her hand on the elderly 
lady's shoulder. The lady smiled. The young mother smiled. Her 
baby smiled. The people in the next line smiled. Within a few 
minutes, the cashier was whistling and smiling. There was 
laughter straight down through all 7 checkouts.
   I got outside into the parking lot. It had spread out there. 
People were laughing and singing and wishing each other Merry 
Chr.shtmlas. Two people almost hit in the lot. Instead of the 
more typical anger, the first (who had been in the store) smiled 
and waved and mouthed, "Merry Chr.shtmlas." The second smiled 
back, pulled into his spot and went for the door. He stopped 
and held the door for a couple of ladies coming in.
   I went back that store more than a month later, with my wife 
this time. There was the same cashier, still scowling. She looked 
up, saw me, and started laughing. She even stopped checking things, 
walked to the next checkout and told that cashier, "Here he is 
   And the whole thing started all over again. Outside Cindy 
asked me what was going on. 
   It has been about the strangest thing I've ever seen. What 
it shows to me is that people are basically good - they just 
need an excuse to show it. And it can be explosive. 
   If you do nothing else to help those in need this Chr.shtmlas, 
give those around you that excuse.
   It works! It really does!!! 

Until Next Time
   Hopefully, I've touched your heart. You'll be stop thinking 
about "What I want for Chr.shtmlas" and think about what someone 
else might need just to stay alive.
   This wasn't a plea for donations of time or money. Honestly. 
If you help St. Vincent or Salvation Army or visit an abandoned 
old man in a home - it doesn't matter. I'd like to hear your 
story of what you've done, but even that isn't necessary. 
   If you DO wish to contribute to "Santa's Little Heroes":

   For donations of personal time, contact me in mail. Be serious 
about it, though! Keep in mind that you're likely to be around 
extremely sick young children. It's going to be heartbreaking.
   For donations of money, you can send them to St. Joseph's 
Children's Hospital and specify that it is to go to "Santa's 
Little Heroes" or you can send it to me (at PO Box 547, Queen Creek, 
AZ  85242, and I'll make sure SLH gets it.
   For anything else, contact me in mail and I'll take care of 
the details. 
   Chr.shtmlas is coming. For me it started long ago. I'm not a 
Christian. But the feeling of the season completely dominates me 
especially at this time of year. 
   If I've touched even one or two of you, this issue has been 
a success. 
   Next time? I don't know. Steve Gresser is putting together 
something very interesting. Or I might become overwhelmed with 
the Chr.shtmlas Spirit and go gushing again. 

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.