By Erin Pustay IndeOnline.com
PERRY TWP. — Real heroes don’t wear capes. They don’t have superhuman powers. Often, heroes are just ordinary people who have hearts big enough to change the world.
Anna Peters would never consider herself a hero, although she certainly seems like one to the little boys who get loads of Christmas gifts every year. No, Peters, 68, is just doing what she feels she’s been called to do.
She’s giving back and changing the world for the better, one child at a time.
Since 2007, Peters has been picking a name off the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and purchasing gifts for that child — always a little boy.
The way she has it figured, it was a little boy who saved her life; she might as well do her darnedest to save someone else’s.
“I just want to do something in his memory,” Peters said of her hero.
Four years ago, an 8-year-old boy Peters never met gave her a gift unlike anything she ever could have dreamed of receiving. He gave her a second chance at life.
Peters for years had lived with polycystic kidney disease, a condition that causes cysts to grow on the kidneys and prevents them from properly filtering blood.
The condition is hereditary, and while Peters’ son and daughter both offered to donate a kidney, she refused to accept the gift, reasoning, “What if one of my grandchildren would need a kidney someday?”
So Peters waited.
She continued her dialysis treatments — for nine hours at a time each night — and hoped for a miracle.
On Aug. 2, 2007, Peters got the call that a kidney was available.
“I didn’t know why I was chosen,” Peters said, “but I was.”
Facing the possibility of a transplant made Peters’ heart pound with the excitement. This was her miracle. But just as quickly as her heart filled with excitement, it broke.
“I was thrilled,” Peters said, “but it broke my heart to find out that the kidney was from an 8-year-old boy who had died in an accident.”
To Peters, it didn’t seem fair. If the kidney had been donated by a 75-year-old man who had lived and loved and experienced all that life has to offer she could have accepted the gift without regret. But this was just a little boy who had so much yet to experience.
“That was really hard for me to accept,” Peters said. “Here I was thinking of my own grandsons and how I had refused to take a kidney from my son or daughter because I wanted to protect them.”
Peters, grateful to the donor and his family, moved forward with the transplant and vowed to give back in any way she could.
She saw the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program as the perfect way to do that.
“I bought a bicycle and two of the biggest sets of Lego sets that Kmart had,” Peters said with a laugh. She also purchased more than $500 worth of other gifts, which included toys and clothes. “I bought whatever I could find in sizes I thought would fit.”
Every year since, Peters has continued to honor the young boy who donated his kidney by purchasing Christmas gifts of a child in need. Every year, she chooses a name from one of the Salvation Army’s trees and chooses it based on how old her young hero would be if he had not perished in that accident.
“This year is the fifth Christmas that I have purchased gifts,” Peters said. “This year, the boy who gave me the kidney would have been 12 years old.”
And just like she has every year before, Peters has gone above and beyond in memory of her hero.
“This year I got a Wii console and three games to go with it. I also got a small TV so he can be sure to play it,” Peters said.
“He asked for a CD player so I got a CD player and a few CDs.” With a chuckle Peters added, “I have no idea if he will like them or not. I doubt he likes the same music I do, but I suppose it’s the thought that counts.”
‘CHAIN OF LOVE’
Peters believes that honoring her 8-year-old hero goes far beyond a few Angel Tree Christmas gifts at Christmastime.
“I am hoping,” Peters said, “that I can honor that 8-year-old boy and that the chain of love he started will carry on.”
The chain of love, Peters said, starts with simple acts of kindness. It doesn’t take much to truly impact the community. It’s as simple as giving the change in your pocket.
“I hope people in the area remember the Salvation Army this time of year,” Peters said. “You probably think that if you put a dollar in one of those kettles it doesn’t mean much. But that dollar could buy a can of soup and to someone who is hungry, that dollar means (everything).”
Peters is also an advocate for organ donation. She knows firsthand how precious the gift of life can be. Imagine, she said, giving that gift to as many as eight people.
“You’d be surprised how many lives one donor can save,” Peters said. “One donor can make a much better quality of life for so many people.”