Thursday, September 5, 2013

J.K. Rowling Finds an Angel

I was outside helping my husband with yard work earlier in the year when my neighbor, Barbara, called, "Peggy."

I gladly abandoned my chore to have a nice chat.

"I just read the most moving book. You have to read it," Barbara said.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Wait, I'll get it for you." Barbara ran into her house and quickly returned with the book, I Wouldn't Change a Thing by Gina Peca.

"Oh yeah," I said. "I've been meaning to buy that."

Gina M. Peca

Gina is an amazing woman who took writing classes at East Line Books and Literary Center in Clifton Park, NY, just like me. Gina attended in the morning and I went in the evening. She was writing a memoir and I was writing a novel. Word about Gina's inspirational story of how she dealt with her daughter, Caitie's cancer and eventual death spread through the bookstore and our community. You see, it's not a tale of misery and hopelessness. It's a story of how Catie turned her cancer diagnosis into an unexpected adventure and took her mom along for the ride.

One of Catie's adventures involved an email she sent to J. K. Rowling. Gina explains in I Wouldn't Change a Thing, "Catie wanted the author to know how much Harry Potter meant to her, how much his antics amused her and kept her mind off her battle with cancer." Together, they searched the Internet for J.K. Rowling's email address. They couldn't find it, but sent the letter to her publishing company anyway. To their surprise, Ms. Rowling received the message and replied. Here is the first email Catie received from the beloved author:

Dear Catie...Your friend Paul Steinberg has written to tell me how much you like Harry Potter books and I can't tell you how much it meant to me. I am working very hard on book four at the moment—on a bit that involves some new creatures Hagrid has bought along for the Care of Magical Creatures classes. This is TOP SECRET, so you are allowed to tell Paul, Simon and your mom and nobody else, or you'll be getting an owl from the Ministry of Magic for giving secrets away to Muggles. With lots of love, J.K. Rowling (Jo to anybody in Gryffindor).

That began an email correspondence between Catie and J.K. Rowling that continued until Catie's death in 2000. The author was so captivated by the nine-year-old's charm and courage, that she called Catie when the end was near and read from the unfinished Book 4 of the Harry Potter series. Here's what Gina says about their relationship, "No matter what was happening during Catie's treatment, Jo made everything better. Her kindness and willingness to take the time to write to Catie show that J.K. Rowling is more than an author. She is a sorceress who brought joy and excitement to a very sick child."
J.K. Rowling was certainly the most famous person in Catie's short life, but she also embarked on plenty of other escapades that would make Harry Potter proud. Attending a prom with her special friend, Kevin, cheering at a Yankee game, and convincing her parents to buy a husky puppy—all while she was going through chemotherapy, extensive tests, and hospital stays.

There is a warning if you decide to read  I Wouldn't Change a Thing. You will cry, but it will be a mixed kind of cry. One of sadness about how a wonderful family lost their treasure of a child. But of inspiration on how to live joyfully, to take chances, to stay positive, and to embrace each moment.

Of course, Gina was devastated when Caitie passed, but she didn't wallow in her sorrow. She took action. Gina and her husband, Larry, founded the Catie Hoch Foundation to help families of children with cancer. Guess who one of the first donors was?

 J.K. Rowling. She made a donation of $100,000 along with this message:

 "Catie left footprints on my heart."

It's impossible to summarize all of the heartwarming moments in this book. You'll just have to read it. All proceeds from this book benefit the Catie Hoch Foundation. You can learn more about the foundation and buy your copy of I Wouldn't Change A Thing at  

"The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by page or by big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."—J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling &
Catie Hoch

A Special Friendship

Gina Peca will be signing copies of  I Wouldn't Change a Thing
at Northshire Books, Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY on Friday, September 13 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.