Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) - February 10, 1991Browse Issues
Author/Byline: Paul Della Valle
Column: PAUL DELLA VALLE
Here's the way it went:
Tony Martins, chairman of the local WalkAmerica, called. He asked me to
write a column urging people to walk for the March of Dimes April 28. I
told Tony what would work best is a column about a child the March of
Dimes has helped.
Do I have a kid for you, he said.
Meet Shaunna Sullivan - 35 pounds of heavenly joy.
Shaunna will be 4 in April. She looks closer to 2. She has brown curly
hair and huge brown eyes that easily outsparkle the gold earrings she
wears in each ear. She carries a diaper around for a security blanket
and has a constant sly grin, like she's thinking of a joke.
We met in Brenda Sullivan's kitchen. First Shaunna peeked around a door
jamb, shyly smiling at Martins and me and Chris Pogodzinski, community
director of the March of Dimes. A few minutes later, Shaunna did this
comic shuffle across the kitchen floor in a blue and red cotton floral
playsuit, grinning at us the whole time, her big eyes laughing.
Before long she was wearing giant sunglasses and giving us hugs. The
tracheotomy tube in her throat wheezed a little, almost like a song.
"She's a ham. She should be a little Miss America," her 31-year-old
mother said. "She is so sure that she was put on earth for people to
love her and to pay attention to her. I'm positive of that. It's funny,
we go into the malls and she's blowing kisses ... she's going to be an
actress or politician when she grows up."
Shaunna was a March of Dimes ambassador child last year. She will serve
as an honorary chairman of Worcester's WalkAmerica along with Mayor
Jordan Levy April 28. She'll walk the 12.3-mile route with mom.
Not bad for a kid who weighed less than 5 pounds when she was born and
who spent her first five months in half a dozen different hospitals, who
weighed just 18 pounds on her second birthday, who had multiple birth
defects and developmental delays, who not only has to breathe through
the tube in her throat but survives on blended food pumped through
another tube implanted in her stomach.
Shaunna communicates with her eyes and her smiles and a little sign
language. She doesn't speak, although she can put her finger over the
trach tube to makes sounds and growls. She even said "mama" once. She
needs around-the-clock monitoring - to make sure the tube doesn't block
up - but Shaunna is all girl. She wrestles with her 5-year-old brother,
Johnny, falls off the bed and sits in the time-out chair when she's
naughty. She flirts with men and loves to cuddle up to white-haired old
"She's the most normal kid I've seen in my life for being sick," her
mother said. "She's always been a little girl first and a sick child
second ... People will say, "Oh, what a shame' and I'll say, "No, it's a
shame you don't see her for the child she is.' "
FUND FOR FAMILIES
Brenda Sullivan could have put Shaunna in an institution. Keeping her at
home has made life hard, especially since Brenda is now divorced and
Medicaid provides limited home-care nursing. There are, Sullivan
discovered, many families in the same situation. Two years ago she
started the Shaunna Sullivan Fund to help families of children in the
neonatal intensive care unit at The Medical Center of Central
Massachusetts - Memorial.
"Let's face it, when you settle down and plan for your family you plan
for two healthy babies," Sullivan said. "You say, "We can afford this.
We can afford two healthy babies.' Then a sick kid is thrown in your
path and you do what you have to do."
The sacrifices have been many. But as Brenda Sullivan watches little Shaunna clown, she knows the rewards are far greater.
"I think I'm so lucky to have Shaunna," she said. "She's brought so much
to my life ... She just wins over people's hearts. She was given so
much ... and you are given so much when you have a child who is not
GOAL IS $47,000
More than 730,000 people in 1,400 communities participated in last
year's WalkAmerica. The 453 who walked in the Worcester event, which
starts and ends at the Elks Lodge, 233 Mill St., raised more than
$42,000. The goal this year is $47,000. Pogodzinski is confident it will
"During times like this people actually give more out of their personal pockets," she said.
Martins is one of those people who gives out of his heart. The
40-year-old executive systems consultant volunteers for the March of
Dimes tirelessly because "I just started feeling like I had to give
something back." Paul Revere Insurance Group, where Martins works, has
been fielding the biggest corporate teams for the Worcester WalkAmerica.
There's a challenge there. You can sign up and get sponsor sheets by
calling the March of Dimes Central-Western Chapter at 1-800-321-0186.
"If it wasn't for what the March of Dimes does, Shaunna wouldn't be
alive today," Brenda Sullivan said. "There wouldn't be the technology.
There wouldn't be the drugs. All the stuff that is so important, that
people don't see, is what saved her life."
Just before we left, Martins and Pogodzinski asked me if I'd walk this
year. I kind of waffled - yeah, maybe. Then little Shaunna came over,
looked up with those big brown eyes and gave me a kiss.
What the heck? I didn't have anything to do on April 28 anyway.
I wrote a column Thursday that featured letters from readers and what I
hoped were humorous answers to them. Trying to be funny, I went too far.
Reacting to an earlier column about the Massachusett Cannabis Reform
Coalition, Mary Leroux wrote in a heartfelt letter that
she recently overcame a substance abuse problem and that "for me one
toke turned out to last a lifetime." I joked, in print, that she should
send me any of the wonder pot she had left. It was a cruel and stupid
comment to make to someone who has valiantly struggled to get her life
together. No excuses. I am sorry, Mary.
Caption: PHOTOShaunna Sullivan, right, with her 5-year-old brother, Johnny.
Index terms: PROFILE, CHILDREN, WORC, FUND DRIVE, WALKING, MOTHERS,
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) - December 13, 2001Browse Issues
Readability: 5-6 grade level (Lexile: 880)
HOLDEN -- Marvin E. Ettinger, 65, of 184 High St., Jefferson, died Tuesday, Dec. 11, at home after being stricken ill.
He leaves his mother, Bessie H. (Mosher) Ettinger of Worcester; a sister, Beverly J. Johnson of Princeton. A brother, Leon C. Ettinger Jr., and a sister, Thelma ``Tina'' Fawe, predeceased him. He was born in Worcester, son of Leon C. Ettinger Sr., and lived many years in West Boylston. He was an Army veteran of the Korean War.
Mr. Ettinger worked several years at Pepsi-Cola Co. He previously worked at Olson Manufacturing and Geneva Asphalt Co. in Sterling.
He was a member of West Boylston Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Harold N. Keith American Legion Post in West Boylston.
The graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, in
Worcester County Memorial Park, Paxton. There are no calling hours. In
lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Diabetes
Association, 2 Mount Royal Ave., Marlboro, MA 01752. Miles Funeral Home,
1158 Main St., is directing arrangements.
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