Alphabet Academy teams up with Make-A-Wish Foundation


As the 15-year owner of the four-location Alphabet Academy, Roe Gallo has observed thousands of children mature physically and mentally, with increases in compassion among the latter gains.

The proprietor noted another success March 20 when her current crop of youngsters gathered at The Singing Fountain, East Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street, to perform the Bunny Hop to raise funds for Gabe, a Philadelphia-area resident who is battling cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Through their aerial efforts and ongoing outreach, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will send the 5-year-old to the Walt Disney World Resort.

“We always do a fundraiser for our sites and are involved in numerous drives, but this touches our kids even more because they realize they’ll be helping a child they can put a face to,” Gallo said Friday from Alphabet Station, 1510 E. Passyunk Ave.

Through her business, the resident of the 1500 block of East Passyunk Avenue has overseen coat campaigns and food initiatives for Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., and gladly accepted last year’s suggestion from Yael Tacher, director of program services for Make-A-Wish Philadelphia and Susquehanna Valley, to have her facilities foster hope for children with life-threatening conditions. Her Blue Bell-based chapter made its initial interaction with a South Philly entity to help Sophie, a now-3-year-old Montgomery County dweller with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to go to the same Florida destination.

“We brought in more than $8,000 the first time and set out in February to match or beat that this year,” Passyunk Square’s Gallo said, adding her helpers tallied $7,100 through the hop, with two weeks remaining in their altruistic outreach.

For Gabe, whose family elected not to comment, the procured amount will not hamper his chances to enjoy a spring journey to the Sunshine State, as all children between ages 2-and-a-half and 18 whose physicians deem them medically eligible to receive and participate in a wish have their request honored, Tacher said.

“We cover everything because we don’t want families dipping into their pockets,” the resident of the 1300 block of Dickinson Street said, with her employer aiding clans in 10 counties to obtain wishes whose average values are $6,177 in cash and $2,456 in-kind.

For Tacher, whose two children attend Alphabet Academy, which consists of the aforementioned station; The Alphabet Station, 1631 E. Passyunk Ave.; The Alphabet Tree House, 1506 E. Passyunk Ave.; and The Aquarium, 1720 E. Passyunk Ave., helping Gabe, whom she said has dealt with his conditions for most of his life, gives the community and the children chances to generate more hope and friendships.

“Though they cannot relate to what Gabe is going through medically, our guys, especially our similarly aged kids, understand that he wants to enjoy himself and have fun with his family,” Gallo, aware that Make-A-Wish sends siblings and parents along for recipients’ experiences, said. “Once we knew he would be our beneficiary, we set out to secure donations, and the kids really began to look forward to hopping.”

One of 62 national chapters, Make-A-Wish Philadelphia and Susquehanna Valley has granted nearly 5,000 wishes since 1986, including 291 for Fiscal Year 2012, when 40 percent of the youngsters sought excursions to Disney World. Tacher’s division is celebrating its sixth year of using bunny hops, walkathons and jump rope contests to ensure happier days for stricken children and do so as an extension of the foundation begun in 1980 following the death of 7-year-old leukemia patient and Arizona resident Christopher James Greicius, who dreamed of becoming a police officer and experienced a day as one.

With more than 219,000 honored wishes in the United States and its territories and 47 countries adopting similar missions, global efforts to have smiles outnumber tears for forlorn families have proven life-affirming. For Alphabet Academy figures, their recent revelry meant revealing just how much they care for their peer.

“Come the day of the event, they were so excited,” Gallo said of the 100 eager participants, the youngest of whom waited for the Easter Bunny to join them in their classrooms.

The others congregated at The Singing Fountain, also the location for last year’s levity, for 20 minutes of hopping delight.

“We took breaks but it was pretty lively and enjoyable,” Gallo said.

Their famous rabbit visitor had them reaching for the sky, though its look could not fool Natalie Foster.

“I know someone was in a costume,” the very observant 4-year-old said of the bunny, “but I didn’t really care because I just wanted to hop to help Gabe.”

“His nose was really big and pink,” classmate and fellow 4-year-old Aaliyah Hennessey added of the garbed guest. “We had so much fun with him.”

While they delighted in recalling their joy, they also wished Gabe a great time among other cherished characters. According to Make-A-Wish Philadelphia and Susquehanna Valley’s website, he likely will benefit from the trip, as 97 percent of wish families and 96 percent of health professional observe increases in recipients’ emotional health, and 89 percent of nurses, doctors, social workers and child life specialists believe the wish experience can influence physical stability. Tacher mentioned that Sophie is progressing well, and she and Gallo cannot wait to see what time in Florida will do for Gabe. Well aware of childhood as a supposed time for innocence and carefree days, they have their own wish, namely, the sustaining of the belief that no matter ones’ circumstances, a little generosity can provide big dividends.

“We really admire and appreciate all the help we’ve received because 87 percent of the revenue we take in will be applied by Make-A-Wish to help Gabe and because we love knowing that even in these tough times, people are still finding ways to contribute,” Gallo said. “To everyone, we say ‘Thank you’ on his behalf.”

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.