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December 1, 2012

To Emma, with love

Young pen pal who touched the world lives on in postcards, souvenirs

Emma Louise Journeay had a taste for adventure and had wanted to travel the world. But the world had other plans for her.

Diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer in September 2011 at the age of 8, the plucky Donaghue School youngster did the next best thing — she viewed the world through the eyes of others by avidly collecting souvenirs from hundreds of pen pals around the globe.

Less than a year later, on Aug. 25, Emma succumbed to the disease.

In addition to many grieving hearts, she left behind a travelogue of postcards and collectibles from 46 countries, each of the 50 states and every continent.

On Thursday night, those items were displayed like fabulous jewels on 13 tables at the Merrimac Public Library.

Those close to Emma said the young girl would have been proud to describe the collection as well as the pen pals who had sent the items to her.

The collection grew from an innocent comment by Emma soon after she was diagnosed with the cancer that typically originates in the nerve cells of young children. When doctors discovered it in Emma, the cancer, which has no known cure, had already spread to her surrounding organs, as well as lymph nodes, bone marrow and liver.

“I’m a little sad that I won’t be able to do the pen pal picnic this year at school,” Emma told her mother, Tina Journeay, whose broad grin instantly recalls her daughter’s famously wide and happy smile.

With the help of a Facebook page, “Emma’s Pen Pal Adventure Around the World” was born.

When Emma was no longer able to attend class, a third-grade teacher at Donaghue School, Kathy Terceiro, stepped forward to tutor her at home and assist with the pen pal project, which was launched last November.

Aware that the cancer treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston might not work, Emma worked fast. She was rewarded with an outpouring of love from afar, her spirit reaching out to the places she could not go herself.

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