Used with permission from Channel 10/11; Father Kenneth Borowiak also contributed to this story
LINCOLN (SNR) - In early November, Whitney Mertens decided to share a little bit of her heart with some deserving people at the Nebraska Heart Hospital that’s located not far from her house in southeast Lincoln.
Whitney, the daughter of A.J. and Denise Mertens, is a second-grader at St. Michael School in Lincoln.
“I was thinking about how it might feel to be stuck in the hospital on Christmas,” Whitney explained,” and I wanted to bring joy to them and the nurses too because they can’t be with their families on the holidays so I wanted to bring them cheer as well.”
Whitney sold Bakers Chocolates and Colby Ridge popcorn in front of Sam’s Club to fund her idea.
“I’m really thankful for (the vendors) because they have just been so nice and generous, they just donated all of this popcorn and they also allowed me to make my own labels, which I thought was really cool,” Whitney said.
Whitney also sold chocolates and popcorn after Masses at St. Michael Parish Dec. 15-16. She also accepted donations through a Facebook page, “Whitney’s Holiday Drive.”
Whitney got a little assistance along the way from her parents — she got her mom up early on Black Friday to get a good deal on 45 blankets to be Christmas presents, as well as mugs for nurses — but for the most part, she engineered the entire holiday drive on her own. Her dad A.J. said he enjoys just sitting back and watching the 8-year-old go about her business.
“It’s inspiring,” he said. “She does things on a daily basis that makes you think... ‘we can do better, we can be better people, we can be better in our faith, better parents.’”
Whitney’s mom Denise said they continue to learn from their daughter.
“Like A.J. said, she’s just a true inspiration to us that she’s really reminded us this season, exactly what the season is about.”
“I really just want others to feel happy and to feel love inside like I do,” Whitney said. “This has just been a wonderful experience and I don’t want (it) to end here.”