Cancer survivor collects toys for hospitalized children during the holidays

Posted at 7:36 AM, Dec 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-22 09:16:14-05

One young cancer survivor is giving back this holiday season to sick kids spending Christmas in the hospital.

It was through her long cancer battle, Shelby Burress found her heart for giving back she’s fueled by gratitude and now providing much needed hope for so many families.

“I was four when I was diagnosed with leukemia,” Shelby said.

That meant endless days, tough nights, weeks and eventually months at Beaumont Children’s Skandalaris Family Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders which quickly became Shelby’s second home.

“I found out on a Tuesday night and that was eight o’clock at night we found out from our pediatrician and 11 o’clock we were at Beaumont that evening and the next morning she was having surgery and we were going through chemo,” Shelby’s mom Kelly Burress said.

That was more than 10 years ago and today Shelby is 17.

“I’m 10 years in remission now,” Shelby said.

Shelby and her family credit her recovery and health to the doctors and nurses who kept their spirits high even in the toughest of times like during the holidays.

“I think it made me exactly who I am,” Shelby said. “It just made me a better person.”

That’s why each Christmas Shelby and her family host ‘Shelby’s Toy Drive’ collecting toys for the children stuck in an all too familiar place during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

“Bringing them toys is really good because it gives them something to look forward to when they’re going through all this bad stuff,” Shelby said.

Little Sofia was diagnosed with leukemia nearly 13 years to the day of Shelby’s diagnosis. What the now healthy 17-year-old brings to families like hers during the toughest time of their lives is so much more than just a toy.

“It’s like good news, it’s really hard when you’re going through it and you can’t see past it so you just go day by day,” Sofia’s mom Angela Fisette said.

Delivering hope with every package. Shelby’s gratitude and spirit of giving back inspires every nurse and doctor – who treated her when she was sick- they look forward to seeing Shelby every year when she comes to deliver the toys.

“It’s very nice to be able to see the opposite end of the spectrum,” Lisa Muma a nurse navigator for the survivorship clinic said. “To see Shelby as a survivor coming back and giving back, it’s just phenomenal.”

During this time of year when it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s a survivor’s heart that’s inspiring hope during the holidays.

“I want to tell them that they can look forward to this because one day it could happen and you have to think of it that way, you have to think of the positive to be able to get here,” Shelby said.

This is the 7th year Shelby has been delivering toys to children in the hospital and you can still donate to her toy drive throughout the end of the year through her Facebook page.