B.I.G. Love helps cancer patients at Dell Children's
Some Austin families with children battling cancer are finding hope in a big way. A non-profit new to town is spreading love one wish list at a time. It's all happening inside Dell Children's Medical Center.
Each Monday patients and their families fill out a wish list. Everything from groceries to necessities and of course toys makes the list. Volunteers do the shopping and on Wednesdays carts full of gifts are pushed back into the hospital.
Wednesdays are B.I.G. Love days on the floor where cancer fighters stay.
"It's an honor and a privilege to do what we do," said Jessica Phillips. Every trip she makes means so much. Phillips started B.I.G. Love Cancer Care. B.I.G. stands for Brooke's Incredible Gift which Phillips will tell you is love. The organization was started in February 2007 to honor Phillips' daughter Brooke. After two years of treatment she lost her battle to cancer.
"Brooke would be in the hospital and hear a child cry and want to take them something, or color them a picture or even share our food. She helped us see beyond our own need," said Phillips after dropping off gifts.
Volunteers started shopping for patients at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston seven years ago. Recently Phillips and her family relocated to Austin. It didn't take her long to start visiting patients and their families at Dell Children's.
"When they smile my heart heals a little more," said Phillips.
B.I.G. Love also delivers new diagnosis bags, contributes to toy and hospitality carts and supports staff.
Phillips stopped in Rex Ryan's room. He's two and according to Casey, his dad, he can't get enough trucks. Anything police or fire related he wants. Rex was diagnosed with Stage IV high risk Neuroblastoma. Rex has earned the honorary title of mayor around the hospital because he's happy and doesn't like to miss a beat.
Casey Ryan says there's an instant connection when B.I.G. Love comes around. The toys help pass the time and keep Rex distracted even though he's plugged up to machines.
"She's gone through this battle and that's the biggest thing my wife and I have gotten to know," said Ryan. "For a lot of families it makes the world of difference when you aren't able or comfortable to step outside of these walls," he said.
The Ryans are in and out of the hospital for treatment. Doctors say Rex is improving but still isn't done with his fight. His dad knows B.I.G. Love will continue to be a part of that journey.
"They don't have to explain to me the things they feel or the things they struggle with. We already know it and we connect immediately and there's a friendship that lasts a long time.
"Thank you so much," said Demarcus Hall. At 14, the 8th grader from the San Marcos area is fighting lymphoma. "It means the world to me when they bring me this stuff because sometimes I can't order it from the hospital," he said. Hall found out he had cancer when he was having trouble throwing the ball in gym class. Something didn't feel right.
When B.I.G. Love visits Hall they bring lemonade, water and fruit punch. All are his favorites. Hall says there's something about being able to just lean over and grab a drink he likes when he's not feeling great.
Shoppers spend a couple thousand dollars each week. Donations make fulfilling wish lists possible.
"It's grown beyond what this mom or what we thought could happen," explained Phillips. When she visits the hospital she carries a picture of Brooke around her neck.
Phillips says she knows she's doing exactly what her princess taught her to do.
"I think she would say now that's what I'm talking about," said Phillips.
Ryan says he and his family want to give back and pay it forward when they're out of the hospital.
"You realize what matters in life and it's not the Austin traffic or something not going your way but you realize what truly matters," Ryan said.
The organization is looking for volunteers and donations.