A Patient’s Big Smile Attracts Big-Hearted Donors

Wildine Amoithe, a regular patient at the Mailman Center for Child Development, has a genetic condition known as achondroplasia that has kept her from growing more than 30 inches tall. Despite her small stature, however, the 12-year-old sixth-grader has an outsized smile that touched the hearts of some generous Miami-Dade residents who read about her during the recent holiday season in the Miami Herald Wish Book feature.

“I nominated her, and the Herald chose her as one of the people in need they wanted to feature,” said Shelly Baer, a social worker at the Mailman Center. “Wildine had important needs — a power wheelchair, some renovation to the home where she and her parents live to make it easier for her to get around, and a computer and printer for her school work.”

The public response didn’t take long. Maria Perez, a local school teacher, recognized Wildine as one of the children she had met at the special-needs camp where her son, Michael, has been a volunteer for the past five summers. The two spoke, and Wildine had her printer.

“We did it because we like to pay it forward and help people who don’t have the means to help themselves,” said Maria Perez. “We know Wildine and her mother, Wilma. They’re a very nice, humble family who need help.”

“You become her friend instantly,” said Michael Perez. “Wildine has this vibrant personality and really wants to get to know you. We became very close, and it was nice to have a way to show her how much I care for her.”

Coincidentally, another teacher — a retired middle school teacher named Leda Falero — also saw the ad and wanted to help. That’s how Wildine got her laptop computer — an ultralight MacBook Air that is easy for her to use.

“I miss the energy of teenagers, so I have begun getting involved with organizations to help kids,” said Falero. “When I read the story in the paper, I was moved by how positive and full of life she is. This little girl has to depend on somebody for just about everything, and yet the world is her oyster. I found that amazing. I waited to get a case for laptop until I found out what color she wanted. Of course she wanted pink!”

Both donors wanted to give Wildine the gifts in person, so Baer arranged a get-together the next time Wildine was due at the Mailman Center.

“It was a great surprise and a great experience,” said Wildine. “Now I have an easier time doing my homework, and I can email all my friends. I’m very thankful to everybody for their generosity.”
Wildine’s other needs have come through, too. A non-profit housing organization is covering the cost of making her home more user-friendly, and the staff at the Mailman Center helped get Wildine the physical evaluation necessary for the cost of her power wheelchair to be covered by Medicaid.

“Wildine is such a special kid, and this was very important for her,” said Baer. “I’m really happy we were able to do this.”

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