Dawn Holt has a
Christmas gift for

Unwrap it and you will see an urgent yet heartwarming reminder not
all the news coming out of U.S. public schools is bad. You will see,
amidst the paroxysms of millennial madness poised to seize our country,
despite dozens upon dozens of classrooms in the throes of educational
idiocy, here’s inspiration and hope, a touchstone for the future.

Yes, the same day a Florida student is arrested for making new
threats about Columbine, Dawn Holt has a Christmas story, for me, for
you, for all of us.

A school counselor down South, Dawn is one of those Internet friends
with whom there’s an instant bond.

Dawn: “Did you hear about that eighth-grade science teacher who’s
donating her kidney to one of her students? It’s a cool story. My son’s
science teacher here in N.C., Jane Smith, is giving a kidney to her
student Michael Carter. He’s 14 and the operation is scheduled as soon
as he gets over a fever.”

WND: “Oh, my. An angel and a saint.”

Dawn: “Well, here’s a big thing. The boy is black. The teacher is

WND: “Really. Interesting.”

Dawn: “She said it showed that ‘we’re all alike on the inside.'”

WND: “How inspiring, and not just for kids.”

Dawn: “I truly hope it works. Originally, she had gotten onto him
about ‘sagging’ his pants.”

WND: “Sagging?”

Dawn: “He said he wore his pants like that (down low) because of
the kidney problem.”

WND: “Astounding.”

Dawn: “None of his family members matched. And lo and behold she’s a
match to be a donor.”

WND: “The science holds to the sentiment.”

Dawn: “Yes. Great story. And totally true.”

WND: “Kind of overwhelming. Reinforces your belief in humanity.”

Dawn: “Totally. I heard that when Ms. Smith first sent home a letter
for Michael’s mom to call her about willing to be tested to be a donor,
his mom didn’t call right away, but Michael bugged and bugged her,
confident they would match.”

WND: “I see.”

Dawn: “Michael just KNEW his teacher’s kidney would match, he said,
”cause she always ate yogurt and salad for lunch.'”

WND. “She should be celebrated. This is a great act of kindness and
self-sacrifice. Do you work in the same school?”

Dawn: “No, same county. And my youngest child Alex goes to her
school, Max Abbott Middle. And she is his science teacher.”

WND: “What is she like as a teacher?”

Dawn: “He LOVES her. He says she really believes in what she
teaches. My son doesn’t know Michael, because they are in different

WND: “She must have been affected over the years by all the racial
stuff, this one being white, that one being black. Because she’s making
a strong statement, that God is at work and miracles happen.”

Dawn: “I wonder how bad she felt after getting onto him about
sagging his pants. And then he explained he needed a new kidney.”

WND: “Yes, perhaps that played a part in her involvement. Wasn’t
Michael undergoing daily dialysis since
his smaller kidney stopped working? The principal of his school actually
said it was divine intervention that a white woman could be a perfect
match to donate a kidney to a black student.”

Dawn: “She was notified Thursday that Michael had an infection at
the site of the dialysis. Weird, huh? Since that was supposed to be his
last dialysis. So Jane was on standby, waiting to hear. Anyway, she was
not actually admitted to the hospital. Haven’t heard yet if Michael has
been released from UNC-Chapel Hill. He was admitted to prep for surgery
and have his last dialysis. That’s when they discovered the infection
and fever. So the transplant has been
till Michael gets over his fever. But that’s OK — it’s a live donor.”

WND: “Just a temporary delay?”

Dawn: “Whenever what he has clears up, and he gets off antibiotics,
he can then take the immuno-suppressant drugs, but not before. They say
this could mean days, or weeks.”

WND: “Right. You can’t battle an infection at the same time you’re
taking immuno-suppressant drugs, or you will get really sick.”

Dawn: “I just wonder how many people would volunteer to do this, as
she did. When asked, most will get tested to see if they are a match,
but when it really comes down to the donation, they might balk.”

WND: “A situation you are painfully aware of.”

Dawn: “Yes, my son Cameron’s one bone marrow donor in the
Netherlands rethought at the very last minute. And how heartbreaking
that is.”

WND: “Having lost Cameron so tragically, how does this case make you
feel? It must be difficult, or strange, for you.”

Dawn: “No. I’m so glad she is going through with it. And I just
donated all my annual leave to her.”

WND: “Great!”

Dawn: “Of course. She KNOWS him.”

WND: “Sure. It’s different. Here, the donor has a personal tie.”

Dawn: “Gosh, his parents must be so grateful.”

WND: “A gift from God.”

Dawn: “I bet they get on Oprah!”

WND: “Ha ha ha ha.”

Dawn: “They should!”

This will be Dawn Holt’s second Christmas without her son Cameron. I
believe there can be no greater grief than a parent’s for a child who
precedes them in death. Last Christmas, in Cameron’s memory, Dawn began
a new tradition: giving all her friends presents of chocolate-covered
cherries accompanied by the following exquisitely moving narrative,
which I feel privileged she has given permission to share with WND

Dawn Holt’s Chocolate-covered Cherries

What a terrible way to spend Christmas! My oldest son, Cameron,
had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia on June 30, 1997.
After a harrowing ride in a military helicopter to Walter Reed Hospital,
3 rounds of horrendous chemotherapy, an excruciating lung resection, a
disappointing bone marrow search, now here we were at Duke University
Hospital. Cameron had a cord blood transplant, a last ditch effort to
save his life, on December 4. Now, here it was … Christmas Eve.

A very small room on Ward 9200 was a very different place to spend
Christmas. We had always spent weeks baking cookies, but now the
cookies were sent from family and friends, since I spent every free
moment with Cameron, trying to ease the long, tedious hours. He had
been in isolation for weeks, since he had no immune system, the result
of even more chemotherapy, drugs, and total body radiation in an effort
to make his new bone marrow engraft. As some presents had arrived in
the mail, we had opened them immediately … anything to make a bright

Christmas Eve, 6 p.m., was always the MAGIC HOUR. This was the time
that my family in Iowa, Wisconsin, California or Washington, D.C., would
all open their presents, all at the same time, somehow bringing the
family together, even though apart. Cameron’s father, sister and
brother would also be opening their presents that evening. This time,
this Christmas, it was just Cameron and me, in a small hospital room,
with no decorations … they didn’t allow them in the sterile

With the drone of the HEPA filter and the beeping of his 6 infusion
pumps hooked to a catheter in his heart, Cameron waited until exactly 6
p.m. He insisted we follow this small tradition, some semblance of
normalcy abandoned 6 months earlier. I gave him a few presents that I
had saved for him to open, his favorite being a Hug Me Elmo that said “I
Love You” when hugged. Too soon, it was over, and Christmas was over
… or so I thought.

Cameron carefully reached over the side of his hospital bed and
handed me a small green box. It was beautifully wrapped, obviously from
a gift store … perfect edges, a folded piece of ribbon held down by an
embossed sticker. Surprised, I said, “For me”? “Of course, it wouldn’t
be Christmas unless you had something from me to unwrap,” he replied. I
was speechless. “But, how did you get this? Did you ask the nurse to go
get it for you from the gift store?”

Cameron leaned back in his bed, flashed his most devilish smile.
“Nope. Yesterday … when you left for a few hours to get the mail and
take a shower, I sneaked downstairs.” “Cameron! You aren’t supposed
to leave the floor, you are neutropenic … they let you leave the
ward?” “Nope!” His smile was even bigger now, “They weren’t looking. I
just walked out.”

Just walked out. This was no small feat, because since the cord
blood transplant, Cameron had grown weaker by the day. He could barely
walk, and certainly not unassisted. It took every ounce of strength
just to cruise the small ward halls, much less take a trip down 9 floors
to the gift store. “Don’t worry mom. I wore my mask, and I used the
cane. Man, they sure gave me hell when I got back. I didn’t get to
sneak back in, they had been looking for me.”

I held the box. I couldn’t look up. I had already started to cry.
“Open it. It’s not much, but it wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t
have something from me to open.”

I opened the box of store-wrapped, Chocolate-covered Cherries. “They
ARE you’re favorite, right mom?” he asked hopefully. I finally looked
up at my poor baby, who had already suffered so much, taught me so much
about what being a family REALLY meant.” “Oh, absolutely my favorite.”
Cameron chuckled a little bit. “See, we have our traditions, even in

“Cameron, this is the best present I’ve ever received … EVER.” I
told him, and I meant every word. “Let’s you and I start a new
tradition … Every Christmas, let’s give each other a box of
chocolate-covered cherries, that’s all, and we’ll remember, how we spent
Christmas of 1997 at Duke University Hospital … and we’ll remember how
horrible it was … and how glad we are to be finally OVER all of this
leukemia stuff.” And we made that pact, right then and there, sharing
the box of chocolate-covered cherries. What a beautiful way to spend

Cameron died March 4, 1998, after two unsuccessful cord blood
transplants. He was so brave, never giving in, never giving up. This
will be my first Christmas without him. The first Christmas without
something from him to open.

This is my gift to you. A box of chocolate-covered
and when you open it, I hope it will remind you of what the holidays are
really about … being with your friends and family … recreating
traditions, maybe starting some new ones … but most of all …

But there’s more to this story, because now Dawn Holt counsels
students “here at the school where my son Cameron went. One of his last
wishes was that I go back to his school and make a difference.” Before
that, she worked as a teacher in a BED (behaviorally educably
handicapped) classroom for fifth and sixth graders. “I always have had,”
she confides, “that soft spot for ‘lost boys.'”

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