Back in January, everything changed in the blink of an eye for the Mertens Family.
7-year-old Emma Mertens from Hartland, Wisconsin was playing in the snow with her siblings when she started feeling sick, showing flu-like symptoms.
“Unfortunately Emma wasn’t feeling well, went to the hospital for some IV fluids, and quickly sensed and were told that it was much more serious than the flu,” said Emma’s father, Geoffrey Mertens.
Mertens was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).
“To remove it would mean a lot of risk and you can’t do that because of the brain stem,” said Mertens.
Her parents say a family friend heard about the diagnosis and wanted to do something to help. She remembered the thing that always brightens the first grader’s day: dogs.
So they started asking people in the community to have their dogs ‘write’ letters of encouragement to Emma.
What started with a few letters quickly went viral, and now they’re received over 100,000 letters and e-mails from strangers all over the country.
“We’re receiving about 3,000 emails an hour,” said Mertens. “Beyond overwhelming.”
Letters have been arriving by the truckload on a daily basis.
“I think a lot of it is just giggles,” said Emma’s mother, Tammy.
The ‘Letters for Emma’ project has captured the hearts of people all over the country, and now people in the Quad Cities are responding to her call.
Stacey Teager, Community Services Director at Quad City Animal Welfare Center, says one of their staff members heard about the project and brought it to their attention.
“I looked it up and I thought ‘oh we have got to send some,'” she said.
On Wednesday, Teager sat down to send a few e-mails from some of the four-legged friends who know what it’s like to need a pick-me-up.
Emma received an e-mail from Balto, a gentle giant waiting for his forever home.
“And he told Emma he would write her back when he gets adopted,” she said.
She also received one from Bob, a 10-year-old terrier with medical battles of his own.
“He told [Emma] that his name is Bob and if you spell it backwards it’s still Bob!” said Teager.
And because Teager thought the more letters the merrier, she even sent one from Blossom the cat.
“She wants to get involved too,” said Teager. “So Blossom is going to send a letter too.”
All three animals are still waiting to be adopted at the Milan shelter.
Teager took just a few minutes out of her busy day, knowing something as small as an e-mail could bring some comfort to the little girl.
“You know, it takes just a few minutes to be kind,” she said. “Just a few minutes, that’s it.”
Each letter serving as a reminder that sometimes love is the best medicine.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Due to the mass amounts of letters and e-mails they’ve received, the Mertens family is asking people to share their ‘letters’ on the Team Emma Facebook page.
You can also help the Mertens family with medical and travel expenses through their GoFundMe page.