Thoughtful Vail girl foregoes birthday gifts for Peppi’s House

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Maddie Schockmel

The top toys this year for an 8-year-old girl:  The 2013 Barbie Collector Holiday Doll, LeapFrog Ultra Kids’ Learning Tablet, and any Lego Friends set.

But Maddie Schockmel doesn’t want the Barbie.

Or the tablet.

Or even the Legos.

All she wants is for people to make a monetary donation to Peppi’s House, TMC’s inpatient hospice.

You see, Maddie’s 8th birthday is Dec.12.  She’s having a bowling party this weekend to celebrate, but rather than ask friends and family for toys, she knows the money will be better spent supporting families who are going through the pain she and her family experienced earlier this year.

Maddie’s grandmother, Karen Hood, suffered from squamous cell carcinoma.  It’s typically thought of as a skin cancer, but squamous cells exist throughout the body.  Despite never smoking, Hood developed squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs, Leigh Schockmel, Karen’s daughter and Maddie’s mother explained.  “Unfortunately she just had really bad luck.”

The Schockmel family with Grandma Karen Hood

The Schockmel family with
Grandma Karen Hood

Hood battled the disease for a year.  She endured numerous  surgeries, chemotherapy, and more than two dozen rounds of radiation in hopes that she could beat the disease and continue loving life with her grandkids.  She was in and out of the hospital, and when she needed palliative care, the family turned to Peppi’s House.  “Her body was so worn out.  We knew she wasn’t going to be able to handle much more, but we wanted that to be her decision,” said Schockmel.

This past Valentine’s Day, the family settled in to Peppi’s house.  

Exactly one week later, Hood passed away at the age of 72.

Maddie snuggles with Grandma Karen

Maddie snuggles with Grandma Karen

The Schockmel family only spent one week there, but that week left a profound impact despite the heartbreaking situation they were experiencing.  “Peppi’s was so amazing.  The staff was so welcoming and supportive of my children.  It was so peaceful, and since my mom’s pain was controlled, she was able to have conversations with her grandkids.  They could spend precious time with her and snuggle – something they could have never done in the hospital since she had so many tubes coming in and out of her.  We cherish the pictures we have from these final moments.  It was good for them, and it was good for her.  The staff at Peppi’s House made it a comfortable place to be,” said Schockmel.

With the family continuing to heal, Maddie came to her Mom and Dad a few months ago and told them how she wanted to collect money for Peppi’s House rather than ask for toys for her birthday.  “She’s just that kind of kid.  She’s always been very thoughtful, and if she sees a need, she responds to it,” said Schockmel.  Mom, along with Dad, Shanon, asked Maddie many times if she was sure this is what she wanted to do.  The answer was always ‘yes.’ 

Schockmel said Maddie understands how difficult it is to lose a loved one, and wants to help other families who are going through a similar situation.  The experience, she said, has given her children a lot of empathy, and helped them realize that they can make a difference.

On Dec. 23, Maddie, along with her parents and two older brothers, 13-year-old Zander, and 10-year-old Ethan, will bring a check to Peppi’s House in memory of Grandma Karen.

Certainly one thoughtful act by a little girl who will make an impact on many.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Maddie!  The TMC family hopes you know how much we appreciate it, and we wish you a very happy birthday!

Maddie brought an envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi's House in honor of her Grandma Karen

Maddie brought an envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi’s House in honor of her Grandma Karen

UPDATE:  On Dec. 23, Maddie and her family brought a beautifully decorated envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi’s House, in honor of her Grandma Karen.  Maddie spent some time chatting with TMC Hospice Director Mary Steele before posing for a few pictures. 

Please click here to see KGUN 9 On Your Side’s coverage of the story.

Maddie chats with TMC Hospice Director Mary Steele

Maddie chats with TMC Hospice
Director Mary Steele

The Schockmel Family outside Peppi's House on Dec. 23

The Schockmel Family outside
Peppi’s House on Dec. 23

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