Claim:   E-mail requests birthday cards for Alyssa Bruno, a 5-year-old girl who is battling diffuse pontine glioma.

Status:   Was true; now outdated

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

Hi Friends, Family, Colleagues and Random People who got on my email list!

As many of you are aware, this past school year one of my kindergartners, Alyssa Bruno, was diagnosed with diffuse pontine glioma (stem cell brain tumor). She had a successful year of kindergarten, but took a dramatic turn for the worse at the end of the school year. As of now she has lost all movement in her left side and can’t walk or talk. She has been on five different chemotherapy treatments and continues to be a little trooper! Everyone is praying that this upcoming week’s dose of chemo will show some signs of improvement.

On August 2nd Alyssa will be celebrating her 6th birthday. I’ve been thinking for a long time about what to get for her, but she is very limited with what she can do right now. One thing Alyssa LOVES is to get mail. So I thought I’d email everyone on my list and ask for you all to send Alyssa a birthday card. How neat would that be for Alyssa to receive cards from all over the country and perhaps the world! I’d love it if you all could also forward this message to everyone on your list. (I’m not a fan of chain letters, but this would really make Alyssa’s day!)

If you send a card please enclose a penny for “good luck”! I am going to have Alyssa collect them in a jar as a reminder of all the people who are out there praying for her. I know how busy everyone is these days, but sending a card to Alyssa would really help to brighten her long days during these next few hot months of summer. It will give her a little something to look forward to each day when she gets the mail. I’ve attached a few pictures so that you can put a face with the name! She’s a cutie! :) Try to forward this to anyone who you think would send a card!

Thank you so much,
Marcy Mooney

Alyssa’s Address:
Alyssa Bruno
67 Cascade Road
West Henrietta, NY 14586

First picture is Alyssa on the first day of kindergarten.

Next is this summer — a “Fun Day” in June.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Origins:   Alyssa Bruno, a 5-year old girl from West Henrietta, New York, was diagnosed with diffuse pontine glioma, a type of tumor originating at the base of the brain. The median age at diagnosis of such tumors is about 5 to 10 years old, and gliomas account for about 10% of all childhood central nervous system and brain tumors. Typical symptoms of diffuse pontine glioma include

difficulty walking; muscle weakness in the arms and legs (particularly on one side of the body); difficulty in controlling eye movements, facial expressions, chewing, and swallowing; speech problems; hearing loss; drowsiness; and personality changes. Unfortunately, the prognosis for glioma patients is not good: The tumors cannot be treated surgically (because they grow in between and around normal brain cells, and removing them interferes with critical brain functions); median survival time from diagnosis is less than one year, and the two-year survival rate is currently less than 20%.

Alyssa held up well through her first year of chemotherapy, but in January 2006 her tumor started to grow, and she has lost the ability to walk, talk, or move the left side of her body. A friend of the family helped speed FDA approval for Alyssa’s doctors to try a drug produced in Cuba that has seemingly evidenced some success in treating diffuse pontine glioma, and the treatment appears to have slowed the aggression of her tumor a little.

On 18 July 2006, with Alyssa due to celebrate her 6th birthday in a few weeks (2 August 2006), her kindergarten teacher, Marcy Mooney, sent out the above-quoted appeal for birthday cards with good luck pennies because she “wanted to do something special that [Alyssa] could enjoy despite her limitations.” As of the end of July 2006, Alyssa had reportedly received over 10,000 cards from across the U.S. and other countries, as well as a variety of gifts:

Alyssa now has more than 10,000 cards from just about everywhere in the U.S. Some cards came from Brazil and Barbados.

“It was kind of out of the box kind of thing to do for her birthday. I didn’t even think when I put her address and her pictures up on the Internet that it would be all over the world,” said Mooney. “It’s a lot for them. It’s so much fun opening cards, so they’re letting neighbors and friends and everybody open the cards.”

Some have sent flowers, toys and bears. Most of the cards have also included a penny for good luck.

Members of the Federation of Social Workers donated 180 vacation days so that Alyssa’s mother (who is a social worker herself) could stay home and take care of Alyssa, and they also took over the task of handling the burgeoning piles of cards and gifts mailed to Alyssa from around the world. By the date of Alyssa’s birthday, her family had received around 20,000 cards, and the Federation had collected about another 3,000.

The outpouring of sympathy and good wishes that accompanied the thousands of cards and presents sent to Alyssa helped to brighten her final days, as she finally succumbed to cancer and passed away on 24 August 2006, just three weeks after her sixth birthday.

Additional information:

Pennies and Prayers Pennies and Prayers (Finger Lakes Times)
Pennies and Prayers Girl Receives 10,000 Birthday Cards (R News)
Diffuse Pontine Glioma Diffuse Pontine Glioma (Children’s Hospital Boston)

Last updated:   25 August 2006


  Sources Sources:

    Gregory, Marketta.   “E-Mail Asks for Support of Young Girl Stricken by Cancer.”

    The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.   23 July 2006.

    Gregory, Marketta.   “Cards Come in Bundles for Alyssa.”

    The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.   2 August 2006.

    Lothridge, Brian.   “Pennies and Prayers.”

    Finger Lakes Times.   25 July 2006.

    Vertuccio, Rocco.   “Girl Receives 10,000 Birthday Cards.”

    R News.   30 July 2006.

    WHAM-TV.   “Alyssa Bruno Dies.”

    25 August 2006.

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