BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A local organization is making sure children in hospitals across the nation are smiling on Easter.
“Easter for Eli” was founded by Martin Garrett.
“Eli was my son,” Garrett said. “He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphoma at the age of 2.”
Eli had to spend two Easters in the hospital. A relative and some of her co-workers would always bring him baskets. Handing them out to other patients brought Eli so much joy.
“He loved it,” Garrett explained. “I think he loved handing out the baskets on the oncology floor even more than what he did with his own toys.”
In 2009, just before his 4th birthday, Eli lost his courageous battle to cancer.
Garrett is determined to keep his son’s memory alive.
“Just spreading Eli’s joy one basket at a time,” Garrett said. “Miles for smiles. That’s what one of my friends said as we drive thousands of miles a year to get these baskets out.”
Year after year Garrett and a team of volunteers deliver baskets and gift cards to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonad houses across the country.
“We have representatives helping us out,” Garrett said. “Complete strangers in other states that find us or may have gotten a basket that ask what they can do to help.”
One of the group’s volunteers is 17-year-old Kaden Estep. He was diagnosed with leukemia at just 3-years-old and got his treatment at the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville.
“They would bring stuff into the rooms in boxes,” Estep explained. “Just little things to make you just feel a little better because cancer is not fun.”
Kaden, who is now cancer free, knows how important something like an Easter basket can be for children going through a tough time.
It can turn their day around and help patients get their mind off their treatment.
“While they’re here in the hospital life isn’t as normal,” Haley Poole, from child life services at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, said. “Something like this really helps bring them joy and brings a little life to us.”
There’s not a day that goes by that Garrett doesn’t think about Eli, but with each basket he knows the joy of his strong and brave little boy lives on.
Garrett said “Easter for Eli” started with a goal of a little more than 300 baskets. In 7 years that grew to a goal of 10,000 baskets along with $20,000 in gift cards. We’re told they’re only going to grow from here. Garrett said he wants to eventually be in at least one hospital in every state.
If you would like to donate or help volunteer with “Easter for Eli” you can get in touch with the group by clicking here.