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Jewell Cardwell: Gifts of life best Christmas presents ever

By Jewell Cardwell
Beacon Journal columnist

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Robin Petrus Wagner, kidney recipient (left) and her donor and best friend Sharon Sims Lee is on right.

Christmas really will be merry and bright for Canton’s street superintendent Kevin Monroe and his wife, Francine.

Their 32-year-old daughter Patrice Warfield, whose story I shared a little more than a year ago, received the heart transplant Oct. 18 she so desperately needed at the Cleveland Clinic.

This is her second heart transplant; she received the first one when she was 13.

Patrice’s family, including her husband and 5-year-old daughter, is sad that someone had to die in order for her to live, but they feel blessed beyond measure that the donor’s family made the unselfish decision to donate their loved one’s organs. “She wasn’t that high on the [transplant] list,” her father reported. But her rare blood type was compatible with the donor’s heart.

The Monroes’ other daughter, 26-year-old Candice Monroe, also was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. She had a heart transplant when she was 15 and soon may be in line for another one.

Dad, who has been given the same diagnosis, recently found out after a series of tests that his situation isn’t nearly as urgent.

This is a family that has learned to live in the here-and-now and to always be grateful for time together.

Kidney donation

I wrote in October about a fundraiser local firefighters and others in the safety forces were hosting for one of their own, 44-year-old Robin Petrus-Wagner, as she prepared for her second kidney transplant Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital.

Robin, an Akron Fire Department secretary, is married to Dave Wagner, a fire department mechanic. She received her first transplant in 1991; her brother Rob Petrus of Canal Fulton was the donor. “After 18 years with that successful transplant I started experiencing kidney failure again and had a heart attack in July of 2009. I was placed on the transplant list and have been on dialysis since that time,” Petrus-Wagner had shared.

She was reluctant at the time to name the second donor, but is doing so now. She’s Sharon Sims Lee, formerly of Barberton, now of Zimmerman, Minn. Petrus-Wagner and Lee had known each other since middle school.

“Sharon has been the business administrator and church secretary for Zimmerman Community Church for four years,” Petrus-Wagner noted, adding, “Words cannot express my gratitude to Sharon and her family for the sacrifices they made so that I could live a healthier life, without dialysis.” (Sharon’s husband of 23 years is Andy Lee.)

That gratitude also extends to AFD and those who participated in the fundraiser.

Children helping children

A huge round of applause for students in the Revere School District, specifically those at Bath Elementary, for their huge interest in providing clothing for children in foster care, children they don’t even know.

Summit County Children Services spokesman Chris Vasco was ecstatic over the students’ generosity:

“The Summit County Children Services Clothing Center was recently the recipient of a great donation, which included more than 125 bags of clothing, shoes, toys and more.

“This donation came about because agency staff was contacted a while back by Revere Schools to talk about service work for the students. Two agency staff members had gone to Bath Elementary in October to speak to the students in two of Susan Heiser’s fifth-grade classes. The children were captivated by the idea of helping other children.

“They took notes, then went around in groups of two to speak to all of the other students at Bath Elementary and sought the help of their entire school population. These students were in charge of collecting the clothing, setting up donation boxes, and finally sorting the clothing according to season and gender. …

“After all of their hard work, the school administration saw the excitement of the students and allowed two classrooms to bring the big donation to our campus.”

The Clothing Room — which can be accessed only by Children Services families with their social worker’s referral — is always in need of winter coats, underwear and socks. For more information, please email

Gifts for victims

Big, beautiful bouquets — always — to the unsung hero volunteers at Victim Assistance Program and Furnace Street Mission, who will be providing nearly 150 holiday food and gift baskets Thursday to victims of crime and trauma in Summit County. “Each year Victim Assistance Program advocates identify families in Summit County to be the recipients of a holiday meal and toys for the children,” said spokeswoman Shelley Koch.

“Easing the pain and suffering of crime victims and their families by providing food and gifts to families with children is a small gesture that can make a large impact.

“This program is made possible through generous donations from individuals and corporations as well as support from the local law enforcement agencies. The baskets include a holiday meal and toys for the children as a way of letting them know that the harm caused to them is not forgotten at this special time of the year.

“Volunteers — including the Akron Peacemakers from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and the Akron Police Department Explorers — are helping to assemble the baskets of food and toys. The baskets will be delivered by officers from several police departments — Akron, Barberton, Bath, Copley, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge, Silver Lake, Summit County Sheriff, University of Akron — and volunteers.”

Interested in helping? Collection boxes for new toys for newborns to 18-year-olds can be found in various Summit County businesses; a list is available at Toy donations can be dropped off at the Victim Assistance office at 150 Furnace St., Akron. Monetary donations can be mailed to the office.

Fundraisers at restaurant

A big tip of the hat to three area Howard Hanna Realtors — Diana Palmeri, Jennifer Bourgeois and Jen Petrucelli — who recently served as guest bartenders at Hudson’s Restaurant & Catering in Hudson for a cause dear to their hearts. The trio managed to raise $650 for the Choo Choo Chow Chow campaign for the Free Care Fund at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Also at Hudson’s Restaurant, its second annual Breakfast with Santa, attended by more than 150 adults and children, brought in $1,225 for Blessings in a Backpack, a national organization designed to feed hungry elementary school students whose families qualify for the federal free meal program and who may not have enough to eat on the weekends.

“Every Friday, students receive their bags with food staples that require little to no preparation,” restaurant spokeswoman Kendra Altomare said. “They return their bags on Monday ready to learn. This ministry will sponsor children at [Akron Public Schools’] Helen Arnold Community Learning Center … It takes $80 to feed one child for a year!”

Help for Mobile Meals

Employees from Cascade Auto Group are delivering meals once a week through Dec. 27 to the homes of Mobile Meals’ clients in Stow and Cuyahoga Falls.

And for the fifth year in a row, Subaru — celebrating its “Share the Love Event” — is donating $250 to one of five charities for every new car purchased or leased, said Phil Marcin, Mobile Meals’ development director.

“In addition, Cascade Auto Group will donate $50 to Mobile Meals for each car sold or leased.”

You can mail a contribution for Mobile Meals to 1063 S. Broadway St., Akron, Ohio 44311.

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or