CHILI — In February, Griffin Wright, 8, was playing Sorry! with his father at his grandmother’s house.
“I was killing my dad, like I always do,” he said, “and my mom was reading the paper and saw the story and said ‘What do you want to do?'”
The story Griffin’s mother, Tamera Wright, was reading told the sad tale of 2-year-old Emma Gerwitz, who was paralyzed Jan. 30 after she fell off a bed. Emma’s mother, Sarah Gerwitz, lives with her parents, Paul R. and Nancy Gerwitz of Greece. Paul was in another room when he heard his daughter’s pleas to his granddaughter, who wasn’t moving.
“I could hear (Sarah) shouting at her to wake up and breathe,” he said.
Paul said Emma’s doctors believe the paralysis wasn’t caused by her fall that evening but by a contusion on her spinal cord, possibly the result of a fall a few weeks earlier. The contusion has caused the child to lose the ability to move her arms and legs, as well as breathe and eat on her own.
Emma’s mother, a parishioner of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Greece, happened to have been Griffin’s swim instructor at the Northwest YMCA. Griffin said the article moved him to want to do something for his teacher.
“I just felt these people needed help,” Griffin said.
A second-grader at St. Pius Tenth School, Griffin began making beaded bracelets, key chains and bookmarks and selling them for $1 each to schoolmates, staff members and others. As of the last week in March, Griffin had raised more than $1,000 for the Gerwitz family, according to Kathleen Guarino, his teacher.
“He’s a very smart, very sweet, thoughtful boy,” Guarino said. “It’s amazing that an 8-year-old thought of this on his own.”
Griffin’s generous spirit inspired his schoolmates as well, Guarino said, noting that Gabriella Garcea, a third-grader, emptied her piggy bank and spent $40 of her own money on the bracelets, giving many of them to others.
“I wanted to buy 40 because of the 40 days of Lent,” Gabriella said. “I wanted to do something for the girl that was paralyzed.”
Griffin’s classmate, Michael Soluri, helped Griffin carry the bracelets from class to class in order to sell them.
“I wanted to do it because I like helping people,” he said.
Griffin added that he could personalize the bracelets, and that sports bracelets were popular with classmates such as Austin Knapp, who sported ones with miniature soccer balls, baseballs, footballs and basketballs. Griffin noted that he was inspired to make bracelets, in part, by his late dog, Tera, who had a white ring on the brown fur below his right paw.
Griffin’s mother noted that this isn’t the first time her son has gone out of his way to help people. Last year, he sold $77 worth of bracelets to help a family who had lost their home in a fire, she said.
“Griffin’s focus is on helping other people,” Wright said. “When he makes up his mind on helping other people, it’s like go, go, go, go.”
As for Emma, her mother noted that she is making significant progress and is expected to fully recover within a year. First hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital’s Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, Emma was moved to the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md., in March and is currently breathing on her own for up to 12 hours a day, her mother said. The child also is improving her ability to move her limbs, Gerwitz said.
She added that she wasn’t surprised Griffin went out of his way to help Emma, given that he always stood out in her swim class.
“He was always the one to step ahead of the class and show them what we were doing,” she said. “He was always thinking of other kids before himself.”
She noted that the money Griffin is raising will help to finance the renovation of her home to accommodate Emma’s needs, as well as purchase a wheelchair-accessible van.
Gerwitz added that she has been so touched by her experience with Emma that she has decided to go into pediatric nursing.
Paul Gerwitz said that the family appreciates the numerous donations they’ve received to help Emma, and he added that virtually none have come in that didn’t mention the donor was praying for the family. Gerwitz — who has promoted the formation of prayer groups at various parishes in the Diocese of Rochester over the years — said his family has been lifted up by God from its initial sorrow over Emma’s plight.
“I know through all of this experience that God doesn’t ask something of you without giving you the ability to do it,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — For information on Emma Gerwitz, call Paul Gerwitz at 585/865-6745.