Doing the Right Thing Saves A Family’s Christmas


Lynn McLaughlin was in hysterics. “This is horrible! This is horrible!”

she told me on the phone from her hospital bed. Honestly… I’d be screaming too. Lynn had just been declared dead. I’m serious.

The news came in a letter (actually addressed to Lynn’s 12-year old daughter, also named Lynn) sent from the Pennsylvania Department Of Human Services. It states “Lynn (age 12) we offer our condolences on the recent passing of Lynn McLaughlin on 10/02/19. You



no longer qualify



for cash assistance because someone in your household has passed away.”
The letter goes on to say that the family’s food stamps and medical coverage would also be eliminated.

Truth is, Lynn McLaughlin is very much alive, and is also very sick. She had back surgery and a debilitating infection. She cannot work or walk. She been in the hospital over a month. Sobbing, gasping for air, she begged “Marty, please help me. I have no money. I can’t feed my daughter. We are having no Christmas!”


We couldn’t let any of those things happen here at Sparkt.

Turns out no one at the Department Of Human Services seemed to care about Lynn’s untimely “death.” She called their office dozens of times since she got the letter. She didn’t get a single return phone call. What’s worse, all of her benefits would expire a few days before Christmas. Seriously? It’s Christmas!

“No one cares Marty! No-one,” Lynn cried. At Spark… we cared. Our team jumped into action.

We made certain her 12-year old daughter was okay. Family friends are watching her. Then I called Amie Downs. She’s the Communications Director for Allegheny County. Truth is, she should wear a super hero cape of some sort. She’s made late night life saving calls for me when no one else would answer their phone. She called a few well positioned state leaders… promised to get it done.

I called Lynn’s case worker… laid out the facts. Told her Lynn isn’t dead… but that this had become a life and death situation. Folks, so you know. I’ve seen this scenario before. Generally… it’s a simple paperwork error. Generally… it’s nearly impossible to get someone on the phone to fix it. In fact, I’ve had to get U.S. Senators and Congressmen involved in the past.

Back to Lynn. It took a few hours… and a few more calls… but it happened. A joyful, tearful Lynn called from her hospital bed. You did it! You did it! They finally called me. They’re giving me back my benefits. Thank you so much Marty! Amie Downs also called to say all benefits will be paid dating back to when they were cancelled.


Sparkt got involved… county and state leaders got involved… Lynn got her benefits back.

There’s more. A Sparkt employee went shopping. She’s so humble she won’t allow me to use her name. On her own… with her own money, on her own time, she bought Christmas gifts for Lynn’s 12-year old daughter. Made cookies too. Brought tears to my eyes.

It’s the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 40: The King will reply…Truly I tell you…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine…you did for for me.

Here at Sparkt…we are making a difference..we couldn’t do it without you. Let’s do more of it together in the new year. Happy holidays!


(Featured image:



Bob Ricca



on Unsplash)

About Marty Griffin
Marty is a past recipient of three prestigious Regional Emmys for Outstanding Investigative Reporting and also won a Broadcast Achievement Award for an undercover story about Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys. He was named the Best Talk Show Host in Pittsburgh in 2008 for the Pittsburgh Achievement in Radio Awards. Marty shakes things up weekdays 9 am to noon on KDKA Radio.

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