“Are you Paige’s mom?”
Heather Alessandro loves to hear that question, especially now. Heather knows that she is about to hear something nice about her daughter.
“She just had a way of making people feel good about life,” Heather said. “She was extremely happy all of the time. I think that is what made people gravitate toward her.”
Paige died in May 2010 from acute liver failure at age 6. She was a kindergartner at Wyandot Early Childhood School in Liberty Township.Doctors never could diagnose what was wrong with Paige, but her family called it spinal vascular disease. It caused her to suffer many physical limitations, making her sit out of recess and other activities.
Heather and Bre Griffith, Paige’s teacher, witnessed other children fight for Paige’s attention. When she had to sit out of an activity, the rest of the class wanted to follow suit.
“They all competed for her attention,” Griffith said. “You would never know that there was anything lacking in her life. Everyone wanted to be friends with her.”
A picture of Paige dressed as princess and her tiny Bengals jersey are still on display in Griffith’s classroom.
Her spirit is also carried on in a much more significant way through Paige’s Princess Foundation. It was created by Heather in 2011 and provides grants to pediatric patients who need therapeutic services and equipment that might not be covered by insurance.
After donating more than $30,000 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Occupational and Physical Therapy department in 2011, the foundation modified its outreach program in 2012 and provided 45 families with assistance through referrals from the hospital.
“It is probably the most special part of my life now, being able to take Paige’s spirit and meet all these other kids who are somewhat like her and help them in a small way,” Heather said.
The foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Princess Run, will take place May 18. In addition, the foundation will host Paige’s Memorial Birthday Party and Toy Drive at The Little Gym of Mason. Toys donated at the event will be given to Cincinnati Children’s.
The donations will help local children, like Trey Couch, 11, a student at Independence Elementary in Liberty Township. Trey’s family doesn’t know the origin of his Cerebral Atrophy, a disease that causes his muscles to deteriorate.
“The disease has affected his entire world,” said Gina Couch, his mother. “Football and basketball, this is world, and even through he doesn’t play, he is still on the team and his boys have his back.”
Recently, the disease has reached his hands and he is unable to write. In response, the foundation presented him with an iPad this month. The foundation also provides Trey with lessons taught by a therapist every week.
“The foundation opens up doors to things,” his mother said. “These are opportunities that never interested my son.’’
PRINCESS PAIGE FUNDRAISERS
- Paige’s Memorial Birthday Party and Toy Drive. Saturday at The Little Gym of Mason, 8201 Arbor Square Drive. Play times are 3-5 and 5 -7 p.m. Toys from the event will be collected and donated to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. To register, call 513-204-1400.
- Paige’s Princess Run. 5K run, walk and family carnival 9 a.m. May 18 at Wyandot Early Childhood School in Liberty Township. Proceeds to benefit Paige’s Princess Foundation, which gives therapeutic scholarships to assist children with disabilities. Event includes food, games, prizes, pony rides, basket raffles and silent auction items. To register, go to paigesprincessrun.com.