A Christmas Wish from a Young Bat Fan
$100 will work to save bats from white-nose syndrome
One day in fall 2011, Lynn Parrucci was surprised to find her seven-year-old daughter, Miriam, crying at her computer.
“I’m writing a letter to Santa,” Miriam explained, “but I can’t spell syndrome.”
“I spelled it for her,” Parrucci recalls, “then it hit me: wait, why does Miri need to know how to spell syndrome in a letter to Santa?”
Miri told her mother that in school she had learned about white-nose syndrome, a disease that has been killing bats, and about BU’s Kunz Bat Lab, part of the Center for Ecology & Conservation Biology, and its efforts to understand and eradicate the disease.
“It’s a fungus that is living off the bats and making them die,” says Miri, now well versed in the disease. “It affects their wings and their face.”
A fan of bats since she was “probably two years old”—her mother had read Stellaluna to her, and she fell in love with the eponymous fruit bat—Miri was heartbroken to hear that her beloved mammals were dying. So, she decided to turn to the one person she knew could help: Santa Claus.
“Dear Santa, My biggest Christmas wish is to save the bats,” she wrote. “There are many bats that are getting very sick from a disease called white-nose syndrome. I really hope that they can get better. I love bats. This is my really, really biggest Christmas wish, and I want you to do that. Thank you.”
Miriam’s parents were touched by her efforts, but they tried to set a few things straight. “My husband tried to explain to her that bats aren’t really Santa’s expertise—his line of work being toys,” Parrucci says. But Miriam wasn’t buying it: “He’s got the magic, Dad!”
When a local radio announcer posed an on-air question—“What’s the most surprising thing your child asked Santa for?”—Parrucci emailed the producer, who invited Miri to be on the radio. “People started sharing all sorts of links and news about bats with us and sending Miri articles,” Parrucci says.
On Christmas morning, Miri came downstairs to find her gifts: a toy bat, a children’s book on bats, and a letter from Santa explaining that a donation of $100 had been made in her name to the Bat Lab. “Because you were brave to share your love of bats with your friends and your community,” the letter read, “your Christmas wish spread.”
Now Miriam has another wish: to be a bat biologist when she grows up—a reasonable calling for a young girl who describes vampire bats as “adorable.”
Miriam Parrucci may be among the minority in finding bats adorable, but her passion has resonated within the BU community, as well. President Brown recounted Miri’s story at a recent alumni dinner, highlighting her curiosity, persistence, and belief: the same qualities that inspire BU’s own researchers. After all, those qualities can lead to a scientific breakthrough of the magnitude that Miri and researchers at the Bat Lab hope for—and that’s nothing short of magic.