Tulsa girl donating birthday gifts to St. Jude's children
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2012
12/10/12 at 2:32 AM
In Latin American culture, the celebration of a girl's Quinceañera, or 15th birthday, marks her transition from childhood to young womanhood.
That's why it was more than a little surprising to friends and family when Karen Gonzalez-Ortiz asked for toys as gifts when her contemporaries get new cars or shopping sprees for new wardrobes of brand-name clothing.
But these baby dolls and Matchbox cars aren't for this Hale High School sophomore.
They're for the children being treated for cancer and other catastrophic diseases who she has seen on television specials about the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital since she herself was a young girl.
"I've had this idea since I was like 6 or 7 - the first time I saw it on TV. You get a real feel for what's happening to them and I feel fortunate because I'm not always in the hospital or having to take all kinds of medications that they have to do," she said.
Her mother, Sandra Ortiz, said she can recall her daughter speaking of the idea as far back as six or seven years ago, but she never thought she would follow through.
"She's a teenager, so I thought maybe she was going to change her mind. Then when we were having the invitations for her Quinceañera made, she told the man they needed to say every gift has to be a toy for the children's hospital," Ortiz said. "She's just a good girl."
Ortiz made arrangements with the fundraising organization that supports the Memphis, Tenn., hospital to deliver the new toys there on Dec. 21. That means Karen will miss the last day of school before winter break.
When she talked to her teachers and principal about getting an excused absence, word got out about what Karen was doing.
"Whenever kids tell me they're going to miss school, I always ask why. It's just precious," said Sarah Peterson, Karen's Algebra teacher.
Now the coaches of several of Hale's athletics teams are collecting additional items to send with Karen, her parents and younger sister.
"We already have five big bags of toys. I don't know. We will probably have to take another car," Karen said, laughing. "It makes me happy, though."
Original Print Headline: Birthday gifts to go to sick kids
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Hale High School student Karen Gonzalez-Ortiz, 15, is surrounded by toys given to her for her Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration) at her home in Tulsa on Friday. Ortiz is donating the gifts to St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World