Alisia Orosco, age 12, has devoted her time and energy to encouraging others, children especially, to look inside their hearts and help other children in need of comfort or compassion, in times of illness, tragedy or triumph. The oldest of four children, Alisia's personal family tragedies have served as an inspiration for her service. Alisia's sister, Katherine, passed away at birth due to a premature delivery. Her brother, David, died at age three, after many hospital stays. Her surviving brother, Georgie, now 10, has Cerebral Palsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alisia knows first-hand the pain of losing a sibling and the pain that is felt when a sibling is the brunt of jokes, stares and whispers from strangers.
Alisia's experiences motivated her to start a volunteer project that involves extending expressions of compassion and caring for others. After her brother had emergency surgery, Alisia met a boy in intensive care with severe Cerebral Palsy and an infant who was born with his abdominal organs on the outside of his body. She overheard the nurses talking about the fact that these two children never had visitors because they had been abandoned and left in the hospital's care. Alisia asked if she could leave balloons or stuffed animals for them, as her family had done for David, just to cheer them up and let them know that someone cared.
Alisia's kindnesses to those children lead to an ongoing effort where Alisia and her brother make similar overtures of compassion to other children in need by distributing baskets full of gifts, called "hugs." In the first year of the project, Alisia and Georgie saved their allowance and purchased 15 stuffed animals, attaching hearts cut from paper with "You're Somebody Special" written on them. The second year, Alisia had help from her school's PTA, Delta Airlines and other friends. They bought and distributed 225 stuffed animals. In October of 1998, Alisia, her friends and anonymous donors were able to give 350 stuffed animals, Beanie babies, school and art supplies and red wagons to two hospitals for children, Hospice, Youth Skills, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Hero Program, and a Head Start program in Arizona. Alisia also wrote to 20 large companies asking, not for money, but for anyone who so desired to send a stuffed animal in honor of someone they love.
Alisia hopes to reach a new goal each year and reach more children, those needing help and those wanting to help. She continues to give up her allowance, birthday, and Christmas money to make sure every child has a "hug." She is pleased to get smiles from sick children and nice cards from grateful parents as a result of her hard work.