EBENSBURG, Pa .– When 8-year-old Gavyn Jones told his grandmother he didn’t think he would get Christmas cards because his parents had passed away this year, Faye Virsack took to Facebook and asked for a little joy for his grandson.
Kate Bender, a yoga instructor at High Street Body Shop in Ebensburg, saw the post and shared it on her account.
She then pitched the idea of running a fundraiser for Gavyn to gym owners Eric and Dana Danchanko – to give the kid “the best Christmas ever.”
The couple were immediately on board.
“These guys blew us away,” said Tommy Virsack, Gavyn’s grandfather. “The outpouring of love for Gavyn – you never imagined it.”
In the two weeks since the message was sent, several hundred Christmas cards from across the country flooded the Virsacks’ home in Portage, where Gavyn lives. By Christmas week, the count was almost 400.
Some came from as close as Virginia and New York City, while others made the trip from California and other far-flung states.
“It’s totally overwhelming,” said Tommy Virsack.
Looking at the many maps hanging on several walls around his grandparents’ house helped Gavyn cope with the loss.
Her father died of a heart attack in April and her mother – the Virsacks’ daughter – died of sepsis in May.
“His world has been turned upside down,” said Tommy Virsack.
But the first sign of grief came recently when the boy slipped into his grandmother’s lap and asked about the cards.
Virsack said that was when he and his wife realized the loss affected Gavyn more than they thought.
“Difficult year for us”
Because Gavyn has autism, it has been difficult to gauge his emotional reaction to the loss of his parents, his grandfather said.
Virsack said when he made the boy sit down to tell him the news of his mother, Gavyn’s only response was “Yes” – a phrase common with him.
“It’s been a tough year for us,” said Virsack.
The holiday cards were only the first step in helping the Portage family.
Those in the High Street Body Shop have also started collecting gifts.
When Gavyn and his grandfather stopped by the gym to collect donations on Monday, they were greeted with dozens of wrapped gifts stacked on a table inside the doorway.
There was also a box containing several envelopes containing gift cards, all provided by employees and members.
That day, Gavyn was allowed to open a gift.
With a big smile on his face, the boy chose a fairly large gift, which turned out to be a plush toy.
“Grateful that we were able to do it”
Gavyn said he was upset over his parents’ passing but the cards have made things better and now with the presents he thinks he’s going to have a great Christmas this year and looks forward to “that Santa Claus. come “.
Virsack said that being able to give his grandson a wonderful vacation means the world to him and his wife.
He said that with his family’s limited budget, a great Christmas just isn’t possible.
Although he was almost at a loss for words, Virsack expressed deep gratitude for the gifts and cards.
“We don’t know how to thank these guys,” he said. “We don’t know how to thank everyone who sent things.”
Those in the gym told him no thanks were needed – they were happy to help.
“We are so thankful that we were able to do this for him,” Bender said.
Seeing the joy they were able to bring to the family, she made her holiday season, she added.
Bender described the response to the fundraiser as overwhelming, but she wasn’t surprised.
“Lighten someone’s burden”
Eric and Dana Danchanko attributed the success to the High Street Body Shop ‘Gym Family’.
They said none of this would be possible without the generosity of those who sponsor the company.
“Our members are always, always ready … to give back,” said Dana Danchanko.
Helping Gavyn isn’t the first gym fundraiser.
To date, the company and its members have raised over $ 20,000 for cancer fundraisers, pet charities, and even the Camp Cadet program run by the Pennsylvania State Police.
“You are fundraising and realize that maybe you have eased someone’s load,” Eric Danchanko said.
Its business model is to serve the community first.
Danchanko said he is always open to fundraising and helping people.
Cards can be mailed to Gavyn Jones, 623 Branch St., Portage, Pa. 15946.