When Heidi Burke sets her mind on something, nothing is going to stand in her way. So when the 9-year-old girl recently launched an epic fundraiser—needing almost $9,000 in less than a week—there was no doubt she would somehow make it happen.

Heidi turned to PayPal and the kindness of family and Internet strangers to help her spring a life-changing surprise on her friend Ellie May Challis, who lives in Essex, England. Heidi was planning to pay for Ellie Mae and her family to visit America.

Heidi and Ellie May had never met in person. But they share a powerful bond. “We are both 9,” Heidi says. “We both have blond hair, we have the same color eyes and are about as tall as each other. And we both do not have hands or legs.”

Heidi is a quadrilateral congenital amputee—she was born that way. Ellie May, meanwhile, lost her hands and lower legs due to bacterial meningitis when she was a toddler.

The fundraiser was to assist Ellie May and her family in attending the International Child Amputee Network (ICAN) convention, held this past summer in Baltimore, Maryland. There the girls would meet in person for the first time.

When the fundraising goal was met, “We just called the Challis family and screamed into the phone to each other,” Heidi’s mother, Dawn, recalls. “The British are coming!”

During the convention, 30-40 amputee children like Heidi and Ellie Mae swim, play games and just hang out. One evening they all go to a big dinner with their families, and for once they aren’t the ones being stared at.

Heidi and Dawn both agree it was a wonderful experience to get acquainted with the Challis family. They also express sincere appreciation to their Chapel Oaks Church family in Shawnee, Kansas for their love and support through the years.


Submitted by the Kansas-Nebraska Conference. Reprinted with permission from the Lawrence Journal-World.