Plymouth, Wis. (WFRV) - Project Angel Hugs is an organization dedicated to putting a smile on the face of children battling cancer.
In 1999 five-year-old Vanessa Jensema was diagnosed with leukemia. The little girl noticed other kids in the cancer unit weren't getting as many cards as she was.
So, Project Angel Hugs was born. The organization sends cards and gifts to children fighting cancer. Vanessa has since lost her battle, but her legacy lives on.
3 year old Levi Rodrigues-Stukenberg is one of those children who receives Angel Hugs every month. He is Leukemia.
"He gets excited about the little homemade ornaments, he carries those around," said Esther Rodrigues-Stukenberg, Levi's mom.
Esther says Levi and his siblings love to open the presents because they know they will always get something.
"They open it and they always, whatever it is, if it's homemade or a toy, they always include a little card that says you've been angel hugged. And it's really special, it's really, personal," explained Esther.
The cards and gifts are made at Project Angel Hugs in Plymouth.
"We send goody boxes five times a year. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and their birthdays," Said Chari Perl, Operations Manager, Project Angel Hugs.
Dedicated volunteers fill the boxes, "The kids enjoy it and it puts a smile on their face and that's what it's all about. These beautiful kids that didn't ask for any of this, anything to make them happy," explained Ellen Mever, Project Angel Hugs volunteer.
Local children make cards and crafts.
A hug is a box. stuffed with goodies, stuffed with candy and follows the theme of the holiday. A kiss is a card and craft. Every child gets something every month.
Currently there are about 270 kids receiving hugs or kisses to put a smile on their face.
Which was Vanessa's dream. When the little girl died her mother char Jensema continued the mission. Char passed away from a motorcycle accident 2012.
But the dream continues.
"Once you get involved, it's very hard to walk away from it. I get emotional yet," explained Chari.
The faces of the children with cancer line the wall at Project Angel Hugs "The wall of pictures is all of the children who have been or are in our program. The once across the top, the yellow stars, they have passed away," explains Chari.
Many live on. Which is why project angel hugs also does.
The volunteers and children can't make the f thousands of cards that are sent each year. People from around the world actually send them. That's where anyone can help. They are also accepting new toys and candy.
For more information, visit the Project Angel Hugs' website.