FREEPORT – While Christmas may be over, the spirit of the season remains for a Freeport teenager and a young Scarborough boy who suffers from rare heart condition known as Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Sydney Pasquale, 14, a freshman at Freeport High School, knows the positive impact of holiday cards. She was the driving force behind an effort to help brighten the spirits of a young Scarborough boy who was in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. The boy, 7-year-old Nolan Murray of Scarborough, had his transplant on Dec. 31, and at last update, was recovering nicely in a Boston hospital.

Pasquale first heard the story of Nolan when a friend of her mother had a 3-month-old nephew who had to have open-heart surgery at Maine Medical Center. Pasquale said that Nolan, who had been a patient waiting for a new heart at the hospital since July, took a liking to the small baby and visited him every day. Pasquale said when it was time for the infant to leave the hospital, Nolan gave the family a Toys ‘R Us gift card “that had a considerable amount of money on it.”

To pass the time in the hospital, the boy had taken to running a lemonade stand, with excellent results, raising about $13,000, Pasquale said, adding that he donated most of the money back to the hospital.

Inspired by the gesture, the mother of Nolan’s young friend asked him what he would like for Christmas.

“He said, ‘All I want for Christmas is Christmas cards so I know that people care,’” Pasquale said.

Hearing about this request, Pasquale went to work about a week before Christmas to see what she could do for the boy, who she still had not yet met.

“I emailed a couple of my teachers and asked them to donate like 10 or 15 minutes of their class time to make cards,” Pasquale said, adding that simple request quickly spread. “But one of the teachers forwarded the message to all the staff, so I got about 500 cards from Freeport High School and I got about 50 From Mast Landing School and around 100 From Morse Street School.”

The outpouring of holiday cards and gifts soon spread out of Freeport, as well. Pasquale said her dad, Tony, who works in dispatch for the South Portland Fire Department, spread the word there and also got cards and gifts donated.

Then, the quest for cards went viral.

“We ended up getting stuff California and Texas,” Pasquale said, adding that people from California sent cards and a high school in Texas sent a huge poster and other gifts.

Pasquale said the story was spread through Facebook, after her cousin, who is in the military in New Jersey, shared a post and spread the news.

On Dec. 24, Pasquale gathered up all of her cards and gifts and went to the hospital in Portland to meet Nolan for the first time. She admitted to having some anxiety about the meeting.

“I was scared, nervous, but I was so excited,” she said.

Eric Murray, Nolan’s father, said the family was overwhelmed by the gesture,

“It was just incredible,” Eric Murray said. “In a short period of time Sydney created a special Christmas for a boy she had never met.”

After receiving the cards, Nolan and his father spent hours looking them over and marveling at the places they were addressed from.

“Nolan would say, ‘Hey look at where this one came from,’” said Murray. “When you live in a hospital room, it’s pretty great to see a larger part of the world.”

Nolan was discharged from the Boston Children’s Hospital on Jan. 16 and moved to the Yawkey Family Inn, a housing unit designed to provide recovering children and their families a sense of normalcy. After a few more rounds of tests, Eric Murray said Nolan was expected to be home in Scarborough soon.

Pasquale said she was thrilled with the response to her project, which was far bigger than she imagined it would be.

“I was really proud of myself,” she said. “I was shocked because I thought I would just get 50 cards just from my friends and family doing it. I was so happy that it went viral.”

“I was just amazed,” Pasquale added. “I was so proud that other people donated their time and got him the cards.”

And this project has done more than just brighten a sick little boy’s holiday. It has taught Pasquale about how much people can do to help out someone in need. In fact, she said, she has spoken to the directors of the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and she plans on going back there to volunteer this summer.

Pasquale said she has learned a lot from her experience.

“It just showed me that Christmas is not just about receiving gifts and getting everything you want,” she said. “It’s about giving back to the community and being thankful for what you have and that there are other people who might not be as privileged as you.”

Freeport High School student Sydney Pasquale led an Christmas-card effort to brighten the holidays of a hospitalized Scarborough boy. The response was more than she anticipated. “I was just amazed,” she says.       

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