Emma Mertens loves dogs. So when she needed cheering up after a difficult diagnosis, her family immediately started sending her pictures of pooches.
As Good Morning America reports, the 7-year-old girl from Wisconsin was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on January 23. DIPG is an aggressive brain tumor that primarily affects children. According to St. Jude’s Research Hospital, survival rates for DIPG are very low, and the tumor is usually inoperable.
After she was diagnosed, family friends began sending Emma photos of dogs in an effort to cheer her up. Then someone shared what they were doing on social media and asked for others to send “letters from dogs” to Emma. Soon, the messages from dogs started pouring in.
This is Emma, an incredibly brave 7-year-old from Hartland, WI who was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain…
Emma’s father, Geoff, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“Without us even knowing, a friend of ours had about a dozen friends send in pictures, and at some point it just took off. I have no idea who made that post, which has been shared over and over.”
Now, the Mertens family is getting messages from around the world, both online and via snail mail. They set up both a P.O. box and an email account dedicated to receiving the letters from dogs. Some are also being sent through Emma’s GoFundMe page and a Facebook post created by the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Geoff estimates that they’ve received over 50,000 dog photos at this point. He says it’s good they have a truck to go pick up the mail, as they’ve received letters from every state and more than 20 countries. He told the Journal Sentinel:
“We’re getting about 2,800 emails each hour and mail by the truckload. I think that says a lot about dog lovers, that they want to take care of more than just themselves.”
That may seem like a lot of photos and letters, but Geoff said that Emma loves them:
“You should see her smile or giggle. She’s a huge fan of larger dogs … but she loves the pictures that come up with just funny and cute dogs. When a dog is doing something silly she just lights up.”
Emma’s family doesn’t have a dog of their own, but the effort of dog lovers around the world to share their own pups has touched her family. Geoff told Good Morning America:
“If you knew Emma, she’s the most kind, big-hearted girl. To see so many people take a few minutes out of their day to put a smile on her face is overwhelming.”
The Mertens are also grateful for the donations to the GoFundMe. Emma’s mother quit her job to take care of her daughter, so the contributions will help provide for the family during her treatment.
Emma has already started radiation, and her family is praying that she will beat the odds. Geoff told Good Morning America:
“We’re doing everything we can to beat this thing,” Mertens said. “We know that we have a very steep road ahead of us. We aren’t going to stop fighting until we can find a cure for this.”
To send a message to Emma, you can use the GoFundMe page, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail your letter to Emma Mertens, P.O. Box 230, Hartland, WI 53029.