Communities show love for thy neighbor in many ways

Abi Cruz went to the doctor with pain in her arm, and discovered she has bone cancer.

Friends and family rallied to the young girl’s side, as did her church and school community in Columbia.

Even strangers reached out, including a group of women from St. Anthony in Florence, who took up knitting needles to help raise funds.

In Mount Pleasant, Nick Collins was thrown from a car in a traffic accident. As he lay on the highway, a second vehicle ran over his legs. It’s a miracle he is alive.

Again, friends and family, acquaintances and strangers alike all flooded forward to offer support.

It’s times like these that “Love thy Neighbor” becomes less a commandment — and one that isn’t always easy to follow — to a calling that touches hearts, compelling people to reach out to friend or stranger, and offer help.

“It’s the body of Christ at work. This is how it’s supposed to be,” said Jamie Hall.

Hall is the mother of Callie, and Callie is a best friend of Abi, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma over the summer, just after her freshman year of high school.

“She’s just a really faith-filled spirit,” Hall said of Abi. “Everyone wants to be like Jesus to her.”

She added that parents are always trying to show their children how to follow Christ and then a tragedy occurs that loudly exemplifies how faith works.

Callie and other friends, like Maggie McGovern, have been by Abi’s side throughout, spending nights at the hospital and selling wristbands to students at Cardinal Newman.

When Abi’s long black hair began falling out, she took to wearing a knitted cap. Her  friends then obtained permission for everyone at school to wear knit hats and sold them for $5 each to ease medical costs.

Soon, demand outpaced supply, until a group of knitters came to the rescue.

Maggie’s grandmother, Patti Musto, is a member of a prayer shawl ministry group. She asked her friends if they would help and received a resounding yes.

About 20 women meet each week and spend three hours or so creating things, she said.

“As you’re knitting hats or shawls or booties, you’re praying. Each stitch is a prayer. When they wear it, it’s a way to keep them wrapped in God’s love,” Musto said. “It fills a need in them to do things for others.”

So far, the group has knitted over 200 caps.

The same outpouring of love has lifted the Collins family.

Nick Collins, 26, is an alumni of Christ Our King-Stella Maris, Bishop England and Clemson. He attends Stella Maris Church, and is a member of the band Fowler’s Mustache.

Students at Christ Our King — all way too young to know Nick — held a baked goods sale for the family and raised almost $2,000.

It is just one of countless fundraisers the community has sponsored. One of the most recent was a cut-athon at Salon Bellezza.

Co-owners Kellie O’Donnell and Mary Ellen Williams always close early on Wednesday. On this particular day, they stayed open an extra four hours, offering haircuts in exchange for a donation to the Collins family.

All 13 of their employees stayed, plus a cadre of volunteers.

“We didn’t even have to ask, they all just volunteered,” O’Donnell said. “It’s so exciting to help someone, so rewarding.”

Even before the doors opened for the cuts, the salon had raised $1,000 in raffle tickets, and then had a steady stream of clients.

Most of the people who made donations didn’t know the Collins family. They came out, they said, because they wanted to help.

Donna Fosmire, from Cardinal Newman, said it’s a joy to see people coming together in faith.