Ellen DeGeneres embraces Joelle Gage of East Amherst
BUFFALO, NY -- Fans of The Ellen DeGeneres Show (seen weekdays at 4pm on Channel 2) know the host can be a soft touch, delighting in granting wishes to her viewers.
In an episode which aired on Friday, DeGeneres was particularly moved by the story of Joelle Gage, 19, of East Amherst, who wrote a letter about her father who died while recovering from a motorcycle accident six years ago, and who was never able to fulfill the promise he made to Joelle's mother, Mary, to take a trip to Ireland.
In her letter to DeGeneres, Joelle, a nursing student at D'Youville College, wrote:
"I know my mom misses him every day, and I know in my heart she would feel closer to him if given the chance to go to Ireland. My father said he wanted his ashes spread there...my mom should be the one to do that."
Joelle and her mother were invited to Los Angeles for a taping of the show. But instead of just awarding her the trip, DeGeneres informed her she would have to earn it by winning one of the show's whacky competitions against another young woman who also wished to go to Ireland.
Her "opponent" identified herself as a college student from Batavia, Illinois.
It was a ruse.
The other competitor was actually a member of DeGeneres' staff, which meant that the fix was in and no matter how Joelle fared she would, unbeknownst to her, be assured of winning the contest.
It was only after she completed an Irish themed obstacle course in 1 minute and 47 seconds, however, that DeGeneres turned to the other contestant, and told her she wouldn't be competing because, "you work here and it's not fair...so go away."
It was at that moment that Joelle realized she'd won by default and that she would be the recipient of a dream come true.
She broke down in tears as DeGeneres filled her in on the week long, all expenses paid trip for her and her mom.
After arriving home Gage said she still was dazed by the whole experience.
"I figured it was a shot in the dark to write to Ellen, and she really made my dream come true," Gage told WGRZ-TV. "I don't think I'll ever believe that it was real and I'm very grateful," she said.
What was never revealed to the show's national audience, however, was that Joelle's late father did quite a bit himself to make dreams come true for others before he died at age 55.
Several years before his untimely death in 2005, Dr. Andrew Gage, a prominent Buffalo physician, organized an annual event where he and his fellow doctors would ditch their scrubs for suds,... raising money as bar tenders to purchase equipment for the neonatal unit at Sisters Hospital.
The event has continued since his passing, and is now named "Doctor Andy's Day for Kids".
To date it has raised more than $160,000.
Call it karma or whatever you will, but a young woman and her mother have learned just before Saint Patrick's Day, that they will travel to the place their loved one dreamed of going, but never did.
And Joelle says when they do; they will fulfill her father's final wish for his ashes to be spread in old Erin, the land of his ancestors.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Andy DeSantis.
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