A Helping Hand for Two Mom's

Two single moms with disabled children receive gifts to improve their lives

Some Christmas stories do have happy endings.

Nubia Cardenas and Allison Adams are two of them from the annals of the holiday diary of a special group of elves from Olathe. Both women are single mothers with disabled children.

Cardenas, 19, Kansas City, Kan., has a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Leeyiceth, who suffered irreversible brain injuries in a traffic accident more than a year ago. Adams, a Liberty, Mo., woman in her early 30s, has three sons with the youngest being handicapped after suffering a series of strokes.

Each woman was helped in different ways this Christmas by the anonymous loose-knit group of volunteers calling themselves Elves of Christmas Present, getting their name from the famed novel by Charles Dickens.

The group has been providing its special Christmases now for 14 holiday seasons.

Chief Elf, who lives in East Olathe, admits each season ends with good-feeling stories of what a little elf magic can do, citing Cardenas and Adams as among the highlights of 2003 as the holidays come to an end.

Both stories are indeed unique.

Nubia Cardenas

Nubia Cardenas is a story about a young mother working to complete her high school education while coping with raising a disabled infant.

She came to Kansas City from her hometown of Garden City in western Kansas following an Oct. 12, 2002, accident that caused traumatic brain injuries to her daughter, who was in a car seat when the wreck occurred. The mother was not injured. Both were passengers in a car involved in the collision.

The mother moved to Kansas City, Kan., to be near the Rehabilitation Institute so that her daughter could receive treatment and therapy for her injuries. The girl has the mental capacity of about a 9-month-old baby.

"She's the cutest little thing. She's a doll," Chief Elf said.

Since settling in a small basement apartment in Kansas City, Kan., Nubia has continued her education though the Quest program with a goal to receive her G.E.D. She then hopes to pursue a college education to either become a social worker to help families and children or a bilingual speech therapist.

While striving to improve herself through education, she has not forgotten her role of mother and has been diligent and active at the Rehabilitation Institute to help care for her daughter and improve her life.

Her plight and devotion soon caught the attention of the Elves of Christmas Present.

"What struck us was that both the baby and mom are kids," Chief Elf said. "She's still trying to put her life together and be a great mom."

Initially, the elves contacted the mother with plans to purchase only gifts for the toddler to brighten up the small family's holidays. As in many of their projects, the elves also began mapping out a way to include the reluctant mother in their bag of treats.

After hearing about her dream of going to college, the elves decided to give the infant clothing and other gifts and to present the mother with a $5,000 trust fund to help her meet her goal of graduating from college.

The funds will be used to cover expenses not covered by any and all scholarships and financial aid to which she may be entitled. The elves also told her that both the University of Kansas and Johnson County Community College have expressed an open invitation toward working with her in the future to obtain financial assistance and planning class schedules to fulfill her dream.

The special trust was announced to Cardenas in a small letter presented to her on Christmas Eve before she left for a holiday visit with her family in Garden City.

The letter was presented to her by Chief Elf himself.

He said the young mother was somewhat shocked and generally surprised about the special gift. "I don't think she could believe that something like that could be given to her from complete strangers," he said. "I think she's going to do great."

Allison Adams

The story of Allison Adams has some similarities in that the elves used a pretense of helping her sons for Christmas with a goal of making it a total family project.

Like Cardenas, Adams was hesitant about accepting any help at all.

"She was politely going to turn me down," the elf said, adding that it took some talking on his part to convince her to accept the elves' gifts for her three sons. She finally accepted the offer.

"I just didn't give her the opportunity to say no," he said.

The reluctance probably came partly from pride and from her job. Adams works for the Clay County, Mo., Division of Family Services and felt there were others families and individuals in Kansas City who needed the elves' help more than she and her sons, Justin, 16, Nick, 12, and Dylan, 5.

Two of her sons have problematic medical conditions. Nick is a diabetic; Dylan was born with a heart condition and suffered four strokes in early childhood, leaving him confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.

The family had a car as their only transportation, which isn't conducive to transporting a wheelchair.

Adams soon provided a relatively simple list of possible gifts for her sons and had to be prodded by the elves to expand it by a few more presents to fulfill their wants.

The elves then went shopping.

The list also included a special gift for the reluctant mother. It was a 1997 Chevrolet van with electric sliding doors and low mileage. It was then taken over to the Medical Equipment Elves and equipped with a wheelchair lift ramp and automatic clamping system.

The gifts for the sons were placed inside the van that was driven to Liberty, Mo., and parked in Adams' driveway about 10 p.m. Christmas Eve. She assisted the elves in unloading the gifts and taking them into the home while her sons were asleep.

It then was her turn to be surprised.

She was told that not all of the gifts have been given to the family. There was still one left. It was for her and was parked on her driveway.

"It was very emotional," Chief said said. "She started crying."

Missions completed

On Christmas Day, he was relaxing in his home in mid-afternoon and reflecting on another successful holiday season by the Elves of Christmas Present.

Most of them live in and around OIathe, but some are scattered throughout Johnson County and the Kansas City area.

They number only a few hundred, but with wide connections, talents and trades. They are united for a single purpose of annually helping needy families or individuals and ill children in obtaining needs or fulfilling dreams during the holiday season.

The elves are not paid for their work.

They also do not perform their good deeds for public recognition. All work under anonymity.

Their missions often are simple, such as providing special gifts, but can become complex projects, requiring great planning and hours of labor.

The missions, past, present and future, have a common denominator.

"It's not about us," Chief Elf said.

"It's about the people and the spirit of Christmas for all to enjoy, including elves."

Gerald Hay
The Olathe Daily News