Jan Emmons is one of those "thousand points of light" President Bush has talked about -- one of the volunteers who help cure social ills by being willing to help their neighbors. Now it's time for a little light to shine on her.
For years, this 40-year-old South County woman has devoted her life to cancer patients. She is best-known as rainbow-wigged "Sunrise the Clown," who entertains sick children in hospitals all over the Baltimore-Washington area, bringing them balloon animals and puppets. Mrs. Emmons has also raised tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research and organized Fantasy Valley, a retreat for the cancer-stricken in Southern Maryland. She put on a successful fund-raiser in Deale that generated enough money to send a 12-year-old to Disney World before he died last spring.
Mrs. Emmons' generosity has not gone unnoticed. Last year, she was named Anne Arundel County's "Most Beautiful Person." And just last week, her work on behalf of Fantasy Valley was chosen out of 60,000 entries for an award from the American Institute for Public Service.
Awards are nice things to have, of course. But right now Mrs. Emmons needs more than plaques and pretty words.
Since the recent, sudden death of her husband, Mrs. Emmons has fallen on hard times. Finances are a problem -- her husband had no life insurance, she's too young to collect Social Security, and her job as a receptionist won't pay the bills. She's having trouble paying her mortgage. She has no family to turn to, and grief has taken its toll on her health.
And yet, despite all that, Mrs. Emmons is still doing for others.
When her husband died, she donated his organs so a little girl and a dying minister might live. This month, she threw herself back into charity work, organizing a dance to raise money for the Sunrise Foundation Inc.
It's a cruel irony when someone who has given so much finds herself in dire straits. That's why it's fitting and right that her South County neighbors are trying to give something back to Mrs. Emmons by taking up a collection.
It's easy to be cynical about the "thousand points of light" concept, but here is one story that proves ordinary people can make a difference.