North Hills grad's family collects gift cards in daughter's name for Children's Hospital
Lexi Hull lost the holiday spirit when her 18-year-old sister, Danielle Kappeler, died. She threw away her Christmas tree and said “Bah! Humbug!” to the season.
Her feelings changed when she remembered the kids in the transplant ward of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Danielle, who received a liver transplant at age 6, spent much of her time.
Through the non-profit organization, Danny’s Path of Life, Hull and her family members are collecting Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon and other retail gift cards to distribute to hospital-bound patients. Last year, they raised more than $3,000. They’re hoping the 2018 “Transplant Tree” campaign will be even bigger.
“Sometimes parents have to leave their kids at the hospital for weeks or months,” Hull says. “Your bills aren’t going to wait. We know what it’s like to be there. We want them to know that they’re not alone and they have people to reach out to.”
Danielle, who died on Feb. 11, 2016 awaiting a second liver and a kidney, started Danny’s Path of Life to help other sick children. The North Hills High School graduate was a member of the Evergreen Fire Company and attended nursing classes at the Community College of Allegheny County. In 2015, she was awarded the Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship by the Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation and the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, or CORE.
Her goal was to work on the Children’s Hospital transplant floor.
Before she died, she made Christmas cards to pass out to kids who were either battling cancer or in need of new organs. Inspired by her selflessness, her family members, including her parents Debbie and Ron Kappeler, and sisters Lexi, Jackie, Sammi and Nicki, now play Santa’s elves and distribute the presents during a big celebration at the hospital.
This year’s event, which features dinner, desserts and to-go boxes, will take place on Monday, Dec. 17.
People can drop off gift cards at several North Hills businesses, including Tevis Auto Service, Frank’s Pizza and Chicken in Millvale and West View, Hardee’s in Millvale, Great Clips and Salon Bella Rae in Wexford, Tevis Auto Service in Ross Township, and Laurel Gardens Tire Service.
Monetary donations to Danny’s Path of Life can be sent to 4200 Mt. Troy Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15214 or to First National Bank, 7475 McKnight Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15237. The cash will be used to buy more gift cards.
Danny’s Path of Life holds other fundraisers throughout the year, including a food drive, a golf outing and a Painting with a Twist party.
The holiday effort is one that’s near and dear to Hull’s heart. She now displays a “Danielle Tree” in her home. The evergreen is decorated with angels, glittery pink bulbs, Hello Kitty ornaments and other things her little sister loved.
“We try to help as many people as possible,” Hull says. “We want people to have a better holiday.”
Kristy Locklin is a Tribune-Review contributor.