Kayla Ueltschi called it her "Movie Mania DVD Fundraiser," and mania it turned out to be.
Since her sister, Jessica, 4, was diagnosed with leukemia in November, Kayla, 7, has spent countless hours with her at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital and Presbyterian Blume Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic in Charlotte.
Kayla noticed the centers had relatively few entertainment DVDs for families who spend so much time there. Some were so worn they no longer worked
So she started a drive that has since netted 812 movie DVDs, all with ratings suitable for children and teenagers.
Kayla and her family delivered the DVDs on March 23, although more keep coming in.
"It was a good thing my cousins were in town to help us carry all the boxes!" Kayla wrote on Jessica's www.caringbridge.org page, where the family posts regular updates on Jessica.
Kayla is a first-grader at Lakeshore Elementary School. She started the drive at Lakeshore and at the studio where she takes dance, Shuffles and Chaines on Brawley School Road.
She collected about 40 DVDs after teachers sent a message home in children's backpacks. She received nearly 125 more through the studio.
"At one point we had about a hundred, and I said, 'OK, let's shoot for 300,'" her mom, Heather Ueltschi, 32, said.
Ueltschi received more movies after asking people in the Child Watch program at Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius, where she worked at the time.
Then someone suggested she ask for movies on the Jessica's Caringbridge page. The page has about 275 registered visitors, she said.
"The response was just crazy ... crazy," Ueltschi said. "That's when I realized there are so many people I don't even know who are praying for her and helping her."
NASCAR driver Greg Biffle and his wife, Nicole, donated another 20 or so DVDs. Ueltschi's husband, Rodger, 37, has been Biffle's friend since childhood in Washington State and now works at Greg Biffle Inc. in Mooresville. Biffle announced Jessica's Caringbridge page on his live Webcast on www.gregbiffle.com.
"It hit Greg really hard, too," Ueltschi said of her daughter's diagnosis.
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dale Jr. Foundation donated another 50 new and used DVDs, thanks to Joanne Gigliotti, who worked in the foundation's marketing department at the time and knew Ueltschi from the YMCA.
Ueltschi's friend Dawn Roniger of Mooresville went daily to the post office on Williamson Road to collect DVDs mailed to a post office box and then drove them to the Ueltschis' home.
One of Roniger's cousins in Louisiana has a young son with Down syndrome; the boy donated 50 of his DVDs.
After the Ueltschis delivered the first DVDs to the centers in Charlotte, they kept getting movies in the mail, including 35 that just came in from Utah, and from friends who run into Heather Ueltschi at the Mooresville SuperTarget and other places.
"We were floored at the response they got," said Rebecca Brooks, a child life specialist at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital, which received 612 of the DVDs. (Presbyterian Blume Pediatric received the other 200).
Brooks said DVDs at the hospital wear out quickly, since up to 43 children at a time, plus their families, are at Hemby.
"We have so many DVDs now that we can ask, 'Who's your favorite character? What's your favorite movie?'" Brooks said.
Jessica, meanwhile, continues to undergo intensive chemotherapy. "We're there on average one to three days a week," Heather Ueltschi said.
Jessica faces two more years of chemotherapy, her mom said, but she is scheduled to start on a less intensive "maintenance" schedule in June. That schedule will require visits to the centers only once or twice a month.
I'd bet the family will have even more DVDs to take with them, thanks to people nationwide they may never know.