Two years ago, as she was using Facebook to find people for whom she could pray, Seton Hill University student Bayley Paharik began reading stories of children facing life-threatening illnesses.

“I saw what they went through and the fear their parents went through with each scan and needle poke, and I was inspired by them,” said Paharik, a communication major from Greensburg. “I saw how they could smile despite deep pain. I wanted these families to find hope despite a horrible situation and know they are not alone as they so often feel.”

So Paharik founded Hope Alive Ministry, an online ministry dedicated to helping children and families facing life-threatening illnesses by providing resources, raising awareness of diseases and offering support.

While the efforts have been online via Facebook and a blog so far, Paharik has planned her first off-line community event.

Hope Alive Ministry is teaming with Project H.O.P.E., Seton Hill’s Social Work Club, to decorate shoeboxes and fill them with toiletries, toys, handmade Christmas cards and other small items to give to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.

“Project H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Other People Everywhere,” said Dr. Marilyn Sullivan-Cosetti, faculty advisor for Project H.O.P.E. “Service projects like this one align beautifully with our mission and provide students with an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The volunteers decorated and filled the boxes November 21 on campus.

Paharik and fellow Seton Hill student Melissa Carden of Washington, Pa., delivered the gift boxes on November 22 to the Ronald McDonald House, which is connected to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville.

“A life threatening illness never affects just the child; it affects the entire family. These families struggle emotionally, physically, and financially. With all they have to worry about, they should not have to worry about providing gifts for their children for Christmas,” Paharik said. “Christmas is about giving and not receiving. If we can bring a smile to these families' faces for just a moment, I know we’re exemplifying what Christmas is all about.”

“Project H.O.P.E., the social work club at Seton Hill University, is delighted to participate in the wrapping of presents for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh,” said Samantha Byerly, a Seton Hill social work major from Jeannette and the club’s president. “It is a pleasure to be able to assist a well-respected organization that helps so many people in need.”