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By Gina Peca, Catie's mom.

When I think about Catie, I have to smile because she was a truly happy person. One of her social workers described her as full of grace – and she was. Her approach to life was to enjoy every minute and make the best of any situation.


When she had to have surgery she was happy because she knew that Larry would come and stay with us at the hospital. When she was having chemo she knew that her friends would be with her in the clinic. During radiation she managed to charm the technicians with her smile and her chatter.


She and one of her best friends, Kevin, got hooked on the idea of raising huskies when they grew up. I wasn't keen on getting another dog since we already had two golden retrievers. So I told her that I had heard that huskies were part wolf. With her typical charm she told me that this was a common misperception and that huskies were actually very friendly animals. Needless to say, when I saw the look on her face as we visited a litter of puppies, we ended up with Potter Gryffindor – our beautiful husky.


There are so many times that I can recall where people went out of their ways to do something for Catie. Our nurse drove to Penn Station at the end of his shift to buy Catie pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. And then he delivered them back to the hospital before driving back to New Jersey. There was a time when she got hooked on chicken wings. We would go to this little place for dinner and the waiter would run out and get milk for her and then make sure she got the 7 chicken wings she ordered.


Another time we were waiting for our train in Penn Station and we were discussing this rare snowman beanie baby. Without our realizing what was happening, a man came over to our table and handed the beanie baby to her. When I tried to thank him he just said that we should have a happy holiday – that was thanks enough for him. Catie didn't understand why I cried.


Her wisdom and maturity went far beyond her years. A few days before she died, she awoke from a comatose state and asked to see her friends. We immediately called them and asked them to visit Catie. When they got to our house, Catie gave them her beloved American Girl dolls, saying she didn't need them anymore. When we were discussing dying, she told me that whenever I saw a ladybug I would know that she was near me.


Now ladybugs bring a smile to my face whenever I see one. Catie’s joy permeates our memories of her, and it is her spirit that guides us in our quest to help other children. I know that what we do makes her proud.


Love, Gina


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