Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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December 8, 2012

Unselfish Third Grader has special birthday

Corsicana — Blond hair frames inquisitive eyes and a million-dollar smile, and 9-year-old Jessi St. Ledger is hard to resist.

She loves gymnastics, Girls Scouts, her boxers, Buddy and Dolly, and just won a second place medal in UIL Storytelling.

But it’s her compassionate heart and wisdom beyond her years that make her so special.

Jessi turned 9 on Nov. 24. It being the week of Thanksgiving, and her best friend Savannah having moved the week before, her mother, Theresa, wanted to do something special. But it was Jessi who came up with the unique birthday party plan.

“One time I heard about somebody collecting shoes for people,” Jessi said. “So I wanted to do something like that. For my birthday, I wanted to help someone.”

Theresa said for months prior to her birthday, Jessi had talked about wanting to help people. The shoe idea was tricky, I couldn’t really figure out how to work the size aspect.”

Theresa asked Jessi what the deal was, and why she wanted this kind of party. Jessi’s response was, “My life is perfect. I don’t need anything. I want to help other people.”

When the week before Thanksgiving rolled around and Jessi had never wavered or changed her mind about the party, Theresa went to “Shall We Dance” to book the studio for Jessi’s “Glow in the Dark Dance Party.” While talking to Diana Castillo, the owner, she expressed that she volunteered at the Good News Cafe at First Baptist Church, a ministry to feed the hungry and/or homeless a hot meal each Monday.

“It was like a light bulb went off!” Theresa said. “Jessi wants to do donations, and here was this lady mentioning Good News Cafe.

“I still had to come home and talk to Jessi about it, and when I did, it all fell into place. It felt like the right thing ... what are the odds that this lady would even know about the Good News Cafe?”

Believing it had all worked that way for a reason, Jessi and Theresa had their dance party, where Jessi blew Diana away with her dancing, wearing glow in the dark clothes for effect. On Monday of that week, they took all the food, canned and other non-perishable, that Jessi collected in lieu of gifts (her invitation stated “no gifts please — Food donations accepted”) and delivered them to Good News Cafe.

“While we were there, Bob O’Toole told us the next day they were going to meet another church in Brownsville to drop off coats and shoes to be taken to New Mexico,” Theresa said, incredulously. “How weird is that?

“We hadn’t even gotten out of the parking lot and Jessi was talking about who she was going to help and how for her birthday next year,” she continued. “And Jessie was talking to her sister Jasmine, who is 16, about what she could do with HER birthday to help someone else!”

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