Many Happy Returns

For years, Ed and Patricia Scheitlin have given help to those in need. This year, they learned what it's like to receive

Spirit of Giving

December 14, 2006|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,sun reporter

This is one in a series of weekly articles highlighting people in the Baltimore area who exemplify the "Spirit of Sharing," The Sun's annual holiday campaign.

If the adage "give until it hurts," were true, then Ed and Patricia Scheitlin would ache all over. The Linthicum couple were always finding some family to assist, some child's day to brighten, some charity to help.

The thought of the favors being returned scarcely occurred to them.

That is, until September, when Patricia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Then, the outpouring of gratitude they had shown over the years came back with a vengeance.

"I counted 35 days straight that I got a card from someone," said Patricia, 55, who runs her own makeup and facial salon.

"I never realized how many people we touched. The flowers, the pot of chicken noodle soup, the gifts. I sometimes get lost for words; it makes you want to do more for people."

On Saturday, the couple teamed with the Casey Cares Foundation -- a nonprofit organization that provides programs for critically ill children and their families -- and Muvico Theatres at Arundel Mills Mall to sponsor Casey Cares' third annual holiday party.

The Scheitlins helped get the party started three years ago. This year at Muvico, they served homemade goodies -- including mini-muffins, chocolate Stars of David and cupcakes -- to families with critically ill children.

About 25 people attended the event, and as an added touch, Ed dressed up as Santa Claus.

"With Casey Cares, you get more out of it than you put into it," said Ed, 56, a semi-retired contractor. "You see the children and their families and the workers, who need your support, too. You're there for them."

The Maryland-based Casey Cares was founded in 2000 by Casey Baynes, a stay-at-home mom and volunteer who sought to help critically ill children and their families in ways others hadn't.

Since its inception, the organization has served more than 3,300 children, from newborn to 18 years old, throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The group helps the families attend sporting events, holds birthday parties and provides family getaways.

Among those helped is Amy Haragon of Baltimore, a 10-year-old with immune thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder caused when the immune system destroys healthy blood platelets.

Amy attended Saturday's holiday party and enjoyed, among other things, the homemade cookies.

"It's fun," she said.

It was also a good time for her mother, Laural, who said the party was a diversion from repeated doctor's visits.

"There's not a lot of times when you can get out and do things, because you're always visiting hospitals," she said. "Casey Cares makes activities that are wonderful for the whole family. You can all enjoy it."

Early last week, Patricia wondered whether she would be up for the party; it was her first major outing since the cancer diagnosis, and she said that often "I haven't felt like myself."

She had surgery in September and completed a second radiation treatment in November. She said her prognosis is good, but the ordeal has been emotionally and physically challenging.

Nevertheless, she attended the party and said that seeing all the children put her in a festive mood. "Being there was awesome. It felt good and even more special to be with the kids and the families. It actually made me feel more at ease, because now I feel as if I'm one of them."

The Scheitlins became involved with Casey Cares in part because their daughter, Kim Meyers, is its program director. They volunteered at a gala the foundation held four years ago and were hooked.

Yet the Scheitlins have always been there for people.

They've gone to the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services and requested a list of needy families to sponsor during the holidays.

One of those families included an elderly woman who cared for her two grandchildren but didn't have enough money to buy them Christmas gifts.

The Scheitlins not only bought the toys but also provided Christmas dinner.

"We've always felt like we have it. We don't live beyond our means; we're not big travelers. We live a simple life, and we've always believed it's better to share it," said Patricia.

She said the couple's generous spirit begins with her husband, whom she's been married to for 36 years. Ever since they dated as high school sweethearts, she says, giving always came easy to Ed.

He's the kind of person who last year gave away four of his Ravens season tickets to a needy family that had never been to a game.

"It was a great game, too," said Casey Cares founder Baynes, "but he came to me and said, `In the long run, it would mean more to them than us.' It's a little thing, but it turns out to be a huge thing for other people."

When his daughter and son-in-law adopted a child from China this summer, Ed bought the child gifts -- and she hasn't even arrived yet.

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