TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CBS Local) – There’s no place like home for the holidays. For children with cancer or serious illnesses though, “home” is often a hospital room. Sadie Keller, a young leukemia survivor, is spreading cheer to kids who are in the fight for their lives.
“I think this is like the best time of the year. I’m sure a lot of other kids think the same thing,” the 11-year-old said. “When they are in the hospital on Christmas, I’m sure they don’t feel that way.”
Sadie knows what it feels like when cancer takes away joy. In 2015, at seven years old, Sadie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia. She won her own battle against the disease, and now gives back to other families facing similar challenges.
“I just want to give them that childhood back that they do not have,” Sadie explains.
At Christmas time, that means toys. In its 4th season now, Sadie’s Sleigh collects gifts for boys and girls, babies and teens.
Sadie set a goal of 300 toys in 2015, but collected 1,300. She collected 5,000 toys in 2016, and 10,000 toys in 2017.
“It’s gotten really, really big,” she says of the effort.
This year, Sadie aims to deliver 12,000 toys to North Texas children’s hospitals before December 25th.
Next week the Keller family will load trucks full of gifts and make drop offs at the hospitals. The gifts will be distributed to patients who are unable to go home for the holidays.
Sadie’s Sleigh also sets up a toy shop in the hospital where children can go choose their own gifts.
Through toy drives, community donations and word of mouth, people give and give. Presents are stacked floor to ceiling in the Kellers’ home. The gifts come in from all over the country, and often include a sweet note, thanking the family for their efforts.
“The love from across the country that did this… that helps Sadie be able to do what she does,” says Sarah Keller.
‘Tis the season, after all, and Sadie sets the example.
Busy working to help others, Sadie says she hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about her own list this year. “This year I actually don’t really want that much.”
She looks at one of the notes that arrived with a gift for Sadie’s Sleigh, reading part of it aloud: “May the Lord continue you to bless you and your family for all you do,” it says.
This young North Texan already feels grateful, thousands of times over. “I would rather see [kids] smile than get anything for Christmas,” she says.
You can pick gifts from an Amazon wish list for Sadie’s Sleigh or go directly to the website to make a monetary donation and Sadie will do the shopping for you. (If you’re looking for ideas, Sadie says the majority of the gifts donated are geared toward boys and girls. But gifts for babies and teens are just as important.)
Sadie will continue to collect donations through this Friday, before deliveries are made to local children’s hospitals: Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Children’s Medical Center Plano, Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, and Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas.
The Sadie Keller Foundation advocates for pediatric cancer research and awareness on Capitol Hill, all while supporting local families.