MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Beat cancer, save lives. That’s the mission at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Founder Danny Thomas said, “No child should die in the dawn of light.” Sadly, not every kid crosses the finish line. But one extra special mom is determined to make Team Carson Count.
Paula’s face lights up like the sun when you ask her to describe her daughter Carson.
“I love to talk about Carson,” said Paula. “Oh my word, she had China blue eyes, huge blue eyes, long eyelashes and all this curly blonde hair, and she had a giggle that could capture the hearts of anybody she would meet.”
It was March of 2006. This spunky little girl was headed out of town for spring break with her family and she was getting ready to celebrate her eighth birthday.
But Paula says those plans changed drastically.
“She was having some knee pain and we decided to take her to the orthopedic doctor to see what was going on because she was complaining of it more and more," said Paula. "The orthopedic doctor said ‘I took some X-Rays, they’re going to be fine. I’ll call you if I see anything’.”
When Paula got that call, it changed their lives instantly.
“I can just remember falling against the wall that day and my husband trying to support me as were in shock," said Paula. "We spent her birthday starting chemo.”
Carson was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.
“That Monday morning we walked through the doors of St. Jude for the very first time and I will never forget Dr. Pappo said ‘you’re at St. Jude now and there’s hope for Carson, and we’re going to do everything we can to fight this’. That started 16 months of her journey there at St. Jude and never once did Dr. Pappo or did St. Jude ever give up.”
Carson was a fighter. She never gave up either. But on June 26, 2015, Carson’s journey ended.
“It was a pretty special moment," said Paula. "She knew she was going to heaven, and she hadn’t talked many days before that, but right before she took her last breath, she told me she wanted me to get her shoes, her sparkly shoes, her special sparkly shoes, 'cause she was going home. And her daddy and I were holding her. She was at home, because St. Jude allowed that, 'cause she wanted to pass at home, so she was with all of us when she passed away.”
Paula says her tears now are happy tears because her countless memories of Carson bring her joy.
“She would always ask people at the hospital if they had any change in their pocket," said Paula. “I would get embarrassed like oh my word, she’s asking people for money. She always carried this bejeweled purse and she’d put all those coins in her purse as I would push her around the hospital in her wheelchair, and when we got to come home and she wasn’t inpatient, she would put all those coins in her piggy bank. But she would never say, she would just put that money in there. We had kind of decided that she was worried because I wasn’t working anymore. But we found out about two weeks before she passed away that she was really thinking about that money. She asked her daddy and I to bring her her piggy bank, we said ‘Carson here’s your piggy bank, what do you want to do with that piggy bank?’ And I will never, ever forget what she said. She said ‘mommy, daddy I want you to make sure,’ and she’d put her finger up 'cause she would always shake her finger, and she said ‘I want you to promise me that when I’m gone, because you know, don’t you, that I’m getting ready to go have tea parties with Jesus,’ and I said yes sweetheart I know, and she said ‘please make sure that the money in piggy bank goes back to the kids at St. Jude because I want my money to find a cure, not because of the kids at St. Jude. But because of the moms and dads, what they go through with their kids at St. Jude.’ I will never forget that.”
Carson’s family kept that promise.
“Our family sat around our kitchen table after she passed away, we counted all those coins that she had been collecting for 16 months. It was $186.42 and we gave that to St Jude.”
That was the start of Coins for Carson. Every year, students at her school put their pennies together into piggy banks made from Kleenex boxes. Over the past six years, they’ve raised more than $10,000, and every penny has been helping beat childhood cancer.
“St. Jude has gotten it to 80% survival rate," said Paula. "That’s huge, but it’s not huge when your daughter is the other 1 in 5. We’re still raising for St. Jude because the kids matter, and so we’re gonna keep pushing just like Carson would have kept pushing as she just drives us forward.”
We still fight for kids like Carson, and you can too. Call or click here to support the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. Only a few hundred tickets remain.
Reserve yours now and not only could you win a Dream Home built by Southern Serenity, but you could also win a brand new car.
Call (800) 224-6681 or visit DreamHome.org to get your tickets now.