Polaroid | Teen Ink


February 8, 2021
By 41writer BRONZE, Nashotah, Wisconsin
41writer BRONZE, Nashotah, Wisconsin
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Early last year, the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation had their first Night of Kindness gala planned. The foundation was created by Emma Mertens and her family on her eighth birthday. Emma put up a tough battle to a rare and inoperable brain tumor called DIPG. The gala was a fun and creative way to raise money to keep Emma’s legacy alive by funding organizations that share her passion for helping animals, such as non-kill animal shelters and rescues as well as K9 units. 

Months of planning one special event was suddenly taken away from everyone due to Covid. The first gala was planned for early spring last year and then postponed until later in the year. Luckily, with all of the new technology and streaming systems, the gala was able to be moved to the fall. The new date of the gala was bittersweet: it was ten days shy of marking the one year anniversary of Emma’s passing.

This night was so special, we all got to dress up as if we were going to a prom. My mom and I had matching necklaces on. Everyone was dressed in blue dresses and suits. Blue was Emma’s team color, everything was always blue. The venue was filled as a sea of blue and kindness matters banners.

The Mertens are family friends of ours. My mom and I have always been a part of Team Emma, but last year, we were able to be a part of this foundation by joining the board. Emma was such an inspiring little girl, and we wanted to help as much as we could to help make her dream of helping animals come true. Emma’s passion was helping animals. Her dream was to be able to fund organizations that would provide help to non-kill animal shelters, rescues, and K9 units. 

The night was meant to be a time of celebration rather than grieving. It happened to be my favorite night of the year. It was an event that I was looking forward to for months. It was rewarding to see how all of our planning and hard work paid off.  We planned for months, we made sure that we were able to find a venue that was big enough for social distancing, found places that would donate for the auction, and volunteered at the event. We were able to raise $36,000 in just one night! During the gala, there were many guest speakers--my favorite part of the whole night. Everyone there was able to hear about how a little girl could have such an impact on the world. We heard stories from the K9 officers that Emma was able to help. In every speech, we realized how important it was to Emma for people to be kind. During the speeches, there was not a dry eye. A K9 handler shared his story about meeting Emma for the first time. We got to hear about how much joy the dogs brought to her when she was going through her battle. The touching speeches allowed everyone to share memories, laughs, and tears.  

Our families believe that Emma likes to watch over us. Emma and the Mertens are our family friends. We think of Emma as if she was a little cousin. She shows us that she’s still here by flickering lights and turning the faucet in the kitchen. While her dad Geoff, was giving his speech, the light right over our heads was flickering. Another way that I believe Emma's showing that she was there in spirit is that everytime I am at an Emma Loves Dogs event, and take a picture, there is always a blue light in it. At the gala, my mom and I were taking a picture by a Kindness Matters banner, and there was a blue light that was going through our photo. This happened at another event in the summer. Emma’s mom Tammy believes, “Emma always loved you; that’s why she’s in your pictures.” 

This night was not only a great way to raise money for the foundation, but it was also a great night to connect with others. We were all able to celebrate the life of someone very special to us.

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