Just six years old, Elizabeth, the adopted daughter of Lou and Mary Warchot of McLean died of leukemia, but not before leaving a legacy that life is good and education is paramount.
Elizabeth, born Aug. 22, 1995 and the older of the Warchot's two daughters was diagnoised with leukemia in 1997. Mary was visiting McLean to try and find a new house for their impending move from California. "The day I came to look for houses in McLean, Elizabeth, who was 2 at the time, got sick. We never went back to San Mateo. Not even to pack," said Mary .
The family quickly purchased the first house they could find and began working to make a place for Elizabeth and baby Catherine, 10 months, to come home to when Elizabeth got out of the hospital. However, with all the time spent at the hospital, it wasn't much of a home at first. "Lou and I slept on the floor and the girls were in portacribs," said Mary.
The McLean community heard about the family that had moved in with a sick child and quickly rallied to their side. "I couldn't believe the generosity of the neighbors. Here we were with no furniture, sleeping on the floor and here comes a neighbor pulling a red wagon full of furniture for us," she said.
That neighbor, was Alice Middleton. "I knew someone was living there, but you wouldn't have known it. I never saw any lights on. I realized that they needed a few things. My family got together some lamps and even a Barcalounger and a few end tables."
The neighbors jumped in and got involved. "We live in the greatest community, I don't know how we could have done it without them," said Mary. The neighbors made up schedules for providing meals every night and took care of Catherine when Elizabeth was in and out of the hospital." The remarkable part of the generosity was that most of the neigbors didn't even know the family just weeks before.
"Our youngest daughter, who Elizabeth called baby Cate grew up as a child of the neighborhood, " Mary said. "We'd receive phone calls telling us who was caring for Catherine, where she would be and not to worry"--the neighbors had things under control --so the Warchot's could focus on Elizabeth.
DAYS AFTER her 6th birthday in August of 2001, Elizabeth lost her battle to leukemia, but not without leaving behind a legacy. of learning and teaching, "Elizabeth had a great love for learning, " said father Lou. "She enriched my life and was excited about so many things."
Mary went on to add, "Elizabeth realized the need to help other people and be generous."
She helped capital area children through the Make-A-Wish foundation and was the honorary Make-A-Wish child for 2000. She helped to bring in a record $575,000 to make wishes come true.
Dedicated to Elizabeth's love of learning the family started a foundation to promote education for girls throughout the world.
That led to their meeting the Rev. Cosmas K'Otienoh, a visiting Catholic priest from Kenya who was working at St. John's Catholic Church in McLean.
At the request of Father Cosmas the Warchots decided to build a school to educate girls in Kenya and possibly help to stop their oppression through education. Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, of the archdiocese of Kisumu, Kenya offered land for the school and a dream turned into a mission. The McLean based foundation, "Because of Elizabeth" was born in 2003.
The foundation established in honor of Elizabeth Anna Warchot is dedicated to the memory of the child who spent most of her short life fighting the downhill battle but wouldn't let that stop her uphill attitude. She brought joy to others by her art work, optimism and cheerful nature everyday.
"Elizabeth would have wanted to do something like this," said Mary, "if she were here she'd be involved." And in a way, she is involved. As neighbor and board of directors member Middleton says, We just have to pray to Elizabeth. She will help us."
"Our mission, said Lou,"is to not only build a school, but to raise enough money to endow the school so that all girls can have the opportunity to attend and not just the ones who can afford it. We agree with the archbishop that we don't want to just train the girls in Kenya, but to give them the appropriate grounding as leaders of the next generation."
WHEN MARY TOLD friend and fellow church member Mary Ann Glueckert about the idea to build the school, she said, "I don't know how, but I'll help you." Glueckert said that to her it's a wonderful honor to be a part of the efforts and to hopefuly do something to make this world better. She said that educating the girls is key to seeing a change in how women are portrayed and feels a neccesity to give of herself and help. "Elizabeth's generous nature was a wonderful example for all of us," said Glueckert.
Ground breaking fo the school is scheduled to take place this year and plans are in the works for a gala to raise funding for the project. To date, small scale fund rasing events have taken place, such as partial proceed donations of cookies sales from the Brownies Troop No. 2787 and the St. John's Catholic Church Christmas Bazaar. But in order to really raise capital, the foundation is counting on a gala, securing corporate sponsorship and other events that can really fuel the mission.
Mary said that she has never taken on a project of this magnitude before and even though she's not sure exactly how, she knows she can make it happen--because of Elizabeth.
The Warchot's agree that they are stronger for having gone through all this and know that moving to McLean was the best thing that happened for their family. "It will all work out. We have been blessed with a great community, support and outreach and as Elizabeth would say, life is good."
To get involved with Because of Elizabeth go to their website at www.becauseofelizabeth.org. or write to P. O. Box 214, McLean ,Va 22101.