For the last number of years, the children at Epworth have been invited to Thanksgiving Dinner with the Gamecock Football team and coaches at the University of South Carolina. The event is always a big hit with the Epworth residents and the team, but this year one resident had a special plan up her sleeve.
Heather quietly brought a brand new Gamecock cap with her to the stadium for dinner. When dinner was over and the team and children began to mingle, she slowly worked her way around the room asking players and coaches to autograph the cap. As she went around the room, the cap quickly filled with signatures. Then she boarded the bus and came back to Epworth without saying a word about the cap.
Over the years, it was not uncommon for Epworth children to collect autographs at the event but her cottage parents were surprised to see Heather gathering signatures. The 13-year-old girl had never showed an interest in football before. She loved the arts and excelled in music, but athletics never seemed to catch her attention. It seemed a little odd, but no one felt a need to question her. Soon everyone in the cottage forgot about the autographed cap.
Then over Christmas break, Heather’s teacher at school stopped Mr. Parker, the Epworth Director of Activities, at the local grocery. “Mr. Parker, did you know Heather was going to do that?” her teacher asked. Mr. Parker was puzzled, “Do what?” The teacher explained, “Heather came to me on the last day of school before Christmas and handed me a present. It was an autographed cap from the Gamecock football team, every signature addressed with my name on it.”
It turns out that Heather knew that her teacher was a huge football fan and wanted to give him something special to thank him for helping her at school. Weeks ahead of Christmas she devised her plan to purchase the cap with incentive money she had earned from her good grades on her report card and then have the team autograph it at Thanksgiving. Her plan worked perfectly and her teacher was in awe of her selfless act of giving and thanks.
In a season when so many people focused on receiving gifts, Heather chose to embrace the season as an opportunity for giving. Heather’s gift is an example of how Epworth works with residents to teach them life lessons, like the importance of giving and expressing gratitude for those who provide help along life’s journey.