On Sunday morning, kids from the Roxborough/Manayunk area got a chance to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. It’s a tradition at St. Mary’s Parish on Conarroe Street called “Breakfast with Santa.”
The event was actually a fundraiser for cancer research and was organized by local resident Claire Lowther. Claire’s 13-year-old son is a leukemia survivor and was one of Santa’s helper elves at the breakfast.
His name is Louie Pacell and, at age three, he was diagnosed with A.L.L which his mother describes as a high risk type of leukemia and very aggressive blood cancer. Claire said it was a long road for her son over the years with 15 blood transfusions but today, he is cancer free.
In December 2001, Louie was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where his mother saw many children staying in the hospital right through the holidays. This inspired her to create a group called “Love for Louie” which organizes the breakfast with Santa. Claire and her group also collect toys and food which they distribute to local families who are struggling due to the financial hardship of having a family member with cancer.
Joining Claire and Louie and helping to organize the breakfast with Santa were her mother Anne Hetherington and friends Patty Brennan and Helen Kendzior. In addition to “Love for Louie” all of the women are also part of another organization called “Friends helping Friends with Breast Cancer” which provides similar assistance for local families.
Cancer survivor Louie Pacell is also involved with other charities and, at age 13, he recently completed a triathlon which was a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He also helped his mom distribute food baskets to needy families for Thanksgiving and organizes blood drives. Louie said that he does it all to give back and try to help others kids survive cancer.
The ecstatic looks on the faces of the kids while meeting Santa was, indeed, living proof that Louie’s love is already going a long way.