We offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone who donated to help Abby and her family

Villages residents are known for many things. But without a doubt, generosity toward others tops the list of attributes that define those who call this growing retirement community home.

We’ve seen it time and again. Villagers find out about someone who needs help and they step up – quickly! From opening their wallets to watching out for their neighbors to volunteering, if you’re looking for people with huge hearts, then look no further than Florida Friendliest Hometown.

Never has that been more evident than in the case of young Abigail “Abby” Lacayo, an 8-year-old third-grader at Wildwood Elementary School who has been battling excruciating pain and bloating for the past several years.

Many of you learned about Abby on May 1 when Villages-News.com’s Larry Lentz wrote a touching piece about her health struggles and her loving family. If you read that story, then you know that Abby recently was admitted to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where her physicians finally were able to diagnosis her condition as a rare form of pancreatitis and gastroparesis. They inserted a stent that relieved some of the pain, but the benefits of that procedure are temporary.

As you can imagine, Abby’s family is financially strapped, not to mention emotionally drained. Anyone who’s ever had a child suffering from a health issue knows that terrible, helpless feeling that doesn’t go away until their youngster recovers and gets back to being themselves again. And let’s face it, no matter how strong Abby’s parents are, they’re going to face some tough days ahead as they do everything possible to help their beautiful daughter.

Abby and her family are extremely thankful for the donations Villagers and other tri-county residents have made to help offset expenses as she seeks treatment for a rare form of pancreatitis and gastroparesis.

By now you’re probably guessing what’s coming next. After Lentz’s story was published, Villagers and area residents swung into action. Thanks to Villager Faye Scher (who can be reached at fscher@aol.com), a volunteer at Abby’s school and a member of the big-hearted Gilchrist West Social Club, a gofundme.com account with a goal to raise $10,000 already was in place, having been set up April 20 so those who wanted to help could do so very easily.

Remember what we said earlier? When there’s a need, Villagers step up and do whatever it takes. And when it comes to Abby, let’s just say their hearts were touched and their pocketbooks were opened.

As of Sunday morning, a whopping $12,940 had been donated to Abby’s account, exceeding the $10,000 goal.

We have no doubt that many of those donors are Villages-News.com readers, and for your generosity, we offer a wholehearted “thank you” for helping out this little girl and her family.

One of the many great things about this drive to help Abby is that it truly is a grassroots effort. Donations range from $10 to $1,500. And the support has come from a whopping 188 different people.

We’re certainly touched, and we know that Abby’s family feels the same way. But don’t just take our word for it.

“We are truly humbled by everyone’s kindness and generosity. The way our community and The Villages has come together is amazing,” the family said in a recent statement. “There are not enough words to express how much appreciation I have. You have made the impossible seem possible.”

It’s no secret that this battle to get Abby well is far from over. Moving forward, her parents face the daunting task of locating a specialized hospital able and willing to perform their daughter’s complicated surgery – a procedure that will remove her pancreas and spleen and transplant islet cells into her liver. There are no qualified hospitals in Florida, so they’re looking into potential facilities in Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania.

While the family has medical insurance, there are other staggering expenses associated with Abby’s illness. So that means that even more financial help would be greatly appreciated.

We have no doubts that Abby’s gofundme.com account will keep growing. And with that in mind consider this: There are more than 115,000 people in The Villages alone. Can you imagine what would happen if each one donated just $1? How about $5? Or better yet, $10?

We’ll tell you exactly what would happen. Abby’s family would have somewhere between $115,000 and $1.15 million to offset the huge bills coming their way. And it would all be possible because of small donations from everyone in The Villages.

As we said earlier, we’re thankful that so many of you have helped Abby’s cause and will continue to do so in the future. We’re thinking of her family every day. And we’re praying that the precious little girl who has touched so many hearts will make a full recovery and get back to what she’s supposed to be doing – attending school, playing with friends and just being a kid.