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'Wish' letter hoax hooking the hearts of business owners

Local woman says she wanted to 'help out'
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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A nationwide hoax has reached Auburn this week, leaving many area businesses duped by the false notion that a 7-year-old boy needs their help to make his dying wish come true. The chain letter started circulating in the Sacramento and Auburn area last week asking for business cards to be sent to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for Craig Shepard, a 7-year-old boy who has a brain tumor and has very little time to live. According to the letter, Craig wants to have an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most business cards collected. It claims he is only allowed one business card per office and asks the businesses to forward the letter on to 20 other business in the area. The problem is the Make-A-Wish Foundation doesn't want them. The chain letter is an urban legend that started after Craig Shergold, then a 9-year-old English boy afflicted with a terminal brain tumor, asked for greeting cards to be in Guinness for the most greeting cards collected. His wish was fulfilled in 1990, and by 1991, he had 33 million cards. Various versions of the letter are also circulating across the United States. Other names used for the child include, "Craig Shelford," "Craig Stafford," "Craig Sheppard" and "Greg Sherwood." "Things like this just break your heart," said Susan Rhomer, co-owner of Gold Country Water in Rocklin. "I thought it was harmless to send a business card, I thought this kid was dying and I wanted to help out." Rhomer received the letter and sent in more than 10 business cards. She received the letter from a neighboring business in Newcastle. The real Shergold has since been cured and still lives in England, according to snopes.com/inboxer/children/shergold.htm, a Web site that tracks urban legends. According to a press release issued by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the letters sent to the Atlanta address go straight the recycling center. The foundation has also made repeated requests that "people please stop sending business cards or greeting cards to Craig Shergold," but the continue to go unheeded. They have even set up a special "chain letter hotline" people can call to hear a recorded message about Craig Shergold at (800) 215-1333. They also have a Craig Shergold Web page. The three-minute recorded message says the foundation does not conduct wishes of any kind that involve chain letters or any other type of direct solicitation including internet or email requests. "The time spent responding to these requests distracts the foundation from its efforts to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses," the message states. "And in some situations, chain letters spread information that is potentially harmful to a child and his or her family." The message references three other hoaxes currently circulating throughout the United States. For now, many in the area are left feeling taken advantage of. "These things just break your heart," Rhomer said. "Throwing things like (those letters) away just make you feel bad - now I just feel like I have been hoaxed." The Journal's Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia. com.
In the Know: Chain letter hoax
If you receive a chain letter claiming ties to the Make-A-Wish Foundation:
l Inform the sender that the foundation does not participate in chain letter wishes.
l Refer the sender and all recipients to the chain letter Web page at www.wish.org/about/chain_letters.
l Do not forward the chain letter.
l Refer senders to ways they can help the foundation, such as referring a child, making a donation or volunteering at a local chapter.
-The Make-A-Wish Foundation