Baskets of Love

But through her good Catholic neighbors, she learned about an Easter service tradition and adopted it as her own. "It sounded like a nice idea," DeAnn says, recalling the neighbor's invitation to help create Easter baskets for sick children. "We first did it as a family service project. When I went with my children to [turn in] the three baskets we'd made, we saw Easter fairyland! There were Easter baskets everywhere!" Seeing hundreds of donated baskets gave DeAnn a new vision of the project. Some baskets awaited delivery to a hospice unit; another pile was headed to a child development center. After that, she couldn't help but spread the word herself. The next year, she got her ward involved, and her daughters recruited friends from school. The year following, as the stake Young Women president, DeAnn sponsored a stake-level project. "I felt my heart reach out to all the young women in my area, not just Church members," recalls DeAnn. "I thought about how I could help them remember they are daughters of God, and that he loves them." She prepared baskets for several girls. "Our [first] tendency was to load their baskets with nail polish and magazines," DeAnn admits. "But we made little quote books, too, with things that were empowering for girls: quotes by Mother Teresa, Audrey Hepburn, and the general Young Women president. Those baskets were filled with more than candy and lip-glosses. They were a reminder about recognizing beauty on the inside as well." Also meaningful to DeAnn has been the chance to prepare baskets for children touched by cancer. "I've been through cancer and I know it affects the whole family," she says. "It's all-encompassing turmoil. And sometimes the baskets aren't just for children who are ill. Sometimes they go to the siblings of sick children whose parents are consumed with caring for a terminally-ill child." "When I was going through cancer, I thought, At least it's me and not one of my children," she says. So when she gives to these families, "it helps appease my heartache for them." DeAnn will continue making baskets every Easter. "We don't want those children to be forgotten," she says firmly. "And we've never been disappointed in the measure of love we've felt." Working with other Christians at Easter is also rewarding. "Many people in the world reach out in their own way. It is just a privilege to be involved."
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