As the January 8th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley approaches, we think back on the legacy of giving he left behind. There is much documentation of his generous donations to the many charities and organizations that he helped over the years. However, what many may not know is that there are hundreds of stories of his quiet gestures of reaching out to those he saw hurting and in need, without the fanfare of the media or ever expecting more than a smile in return. We share a few of those stories here.
In 1960, Rusty was a five-year-old who was hospitalized and suffering from polio when he met Elvis, who, having broken his finger playing football, waited his turn to see the doctor at a Memphis clinic. In the waiting room Elvis became acquainted with Rusty's family and paid a visit to Rusty's room to cheer him up. Later, he sent a personal note to Rusty reporting on the progress of his broken finger and wishing the youngster well. Rusty died as a teenager, but his mother still cherishes the letter and the memory of the time Elvis took to spend with her son.
Tony was ten years old and receiving cancer treatments in Memphis, having to travel back and forth to his home in Florida, when Elvis heard about him. Elvis mailed him letters and pictures, but what Tony's mother remembers about the days before her son lost his battle with the disease were the phone calls he received from Elvis and how they brightened his day.
There was also the little Indian girl whose family was in a car accident on the way to Elvis's Russwood Park concert in Memphis. Elvis visited her in the hospital and gave her the encouragement she needed to get well.
There is the story of Karen, the little girl with cerebral palsy who became a fan through her nurse, Lena Canada. Karen and Elvis were pen pals until her death at the age of ten in 1963. Ms. Canada was moved to write a book about Karen and Elvis's friendship. The book inspired the 1980 movie "Touched By Love" in which actress Diane Lane played Karen and Deborah Raffin played Lena.
Two penniless girls, Elvis fans from England who were in the USA, had a family crisis when their father died unexpectedly. Elvis heard about the tragedy and quietly arranged for the funeral and transportation to England and back. Later, when they attempted to make a payment on the debt to Elvis, he was overcome with emotion saying that no one had ever tried to pay him back and refused their money, telling them the attempt was more than enough.
Today, many people from around the world from all walks of life can tell a story of how, in some way on some day of depression or pain, Elvis Presley was able to lift them up and to ease their need, whether it be through his recordings or films or seeing him in concert, from meeting him or from receiving financial assistance.