By Alin K. Gregorian
WATERTOWN — The Aljalian family of Watertown — Rev. Arakel Aljalian of St. James Armenian Church and his wife, Yeretzgin Natasha Aljalian and their son, Gabriel, 3, — received the worst news possible on November 3, 2012: their beautiful boy had leukemia.
Fast-forward three years: Gabriel’s cancer is in remission and the family now includes the rambunctious little Mary.
The family decided to recast November 3, a day awash with dark memories, as a day for all things good. Young Gabriel came up with the idea for Gabriel’s Day of Kindness, a day when everyone was encouraged to do something selfless.
The social media campaign spread like wildfire and this day was celebrated in all 50 states of the US as well as several countries. The hash tag was used by many people who went on to say what they had done, from buying items for the needy to a young girl saying that she sought out a fellow student who always ate alone. In turn, each act written down, inspired yet another person.
One way or another, this day changed many lives.
On her facebook page, his mother wrote, “On that day our world forever changed and our 3-year-old son started the fight of his life. This day is always dark, difficult and emotional to remember. Yet, through his fight, even in the darkest moments, Gabriel always found a way to smile and let his brave and bright spirit shine through. We want to change what November 3 means for him, and change this dark day into one full of light and happiness. We ask you to join in our gratitude by performing acts of kindness in Gabriel’s honor on November 3rd!”
Gabriel received coverage locally and was having a great week. But his week was about to get better. With fortuitous timing, Make-a-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, fulfilled his wish — meeting and tossing the football with the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady — only a few days later, on Saturday, November 7.
The two made even more news when Gabriel passed along a note of thanks to “Mr. Brady” with $10 enclosed that he had received from someone else, explaining all about Gabriel’s Day of Kindness, asking Brady to pass it along to someone else or use it for a good deed.
“When we shared the cards with him, and told him that Gabriel wanted to give him his $10, the football great was so surprised, and visibly moved. His response was genuine and kind; he then smiled, leaned down and asked Gabriel to give him a hug. Indeed, no act of kindness — towards anyone, however large or small — is ever wasted,” his mother wrote.
Brady shared that he was going to tape the $10 in his locker for good luck until the end of the season, then donate it. “So the fact that Gabriel had the innocence and faith to show an act of kindness toward a football great, when others would not have, speaks volumes to his joyful and giving heart,” she added.
Gabriel and his family and friends took gifts to kids at Children’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Center on November 3.
Another group of family friends made care bags for homeless people and gave them out in Harvard Square. According to Maria Derderian, they gave out gift cards, socks and food. One of the people they met was so touched that after she received her package she took an old envelope and wrote Gabriel a thank you note. “I said that I hope he recovers and thank you for caring. And I said you have an angel’s name,” the homeless woman said.
Natasha Aljalian hopes that in the long term, Gabriel will continue to be healthy and cancer-free.
“We hope that he will keep his beautiful spirit and kind heart, and continue — in whatever he chooses to do — to touch people around the world. We are certain that whatever he does, it will involve him throwing a football around,” she told CNN HL.
She added, “We are simply overwhelmed by the response to Gabriel’s Day of Kindness. We really believe that light will always overcome darkness, and love and kindness will always prevail. This has reaffirmed our faith in humanity and the desire of people to do good in the world. It also helps for us to know that everything that Gabriel experienced, all the pain he went through, has resulted in good in some way.”
The family are especially grateful to Make-a-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island for making his wish come true and for meeting the other kids that were there with Gabriel. “Each is a hero and each had a beautiful heart. It was an honor to meet them and their families,” Natasha Aljalian wrote.
Plan on doing something great November 3, 2016. For motivation and inspiration, visit https://www.facebook.com/gabrielsdayofkindness/?fref=ts
(CNN Headline News and WBZ-TV contributed to this report.)