On February 20th, 2016, just one day following what would have been Tyler Gray’s 19th birthday, his parents held a birthday party in Tyler’s honor. This birthday would be the first without Tyler. Just 7 ½ months prior, Tyler had succumbed to complications stemming from the Acute Myeloid Leukemia he had been battling for 8 months.
At this gathering, the Gray family requested that guests, made up of their family and closest friends, bring gift card donations for the families of the Hematology/Oncology floor at JHACH, otherwise known as "7 South." Over $900 in gift cards were collected that first year.
In February 2017, the Gray family began a month long “Birthday Bash” gift card campaign through the social media page that had been set up during Tyler’s treatment. In Mid-March, over $4,500 in gift card donations were delivered to the JHACH Foundation for the benefit of Hematology/Oncology patients and their families.
Why gift cards? The children on 7 South can be in-patient anywhere from overnight to weeks and months at a time. Caregivers are forced to find a balance and routine that works best for their family dynamic. For the Gray family, it meant sleeping on a pull-out sofa for 160 nights (mom) and driving 23.3 miles, one way, every morning and evening (dad). Their routine, like that of so many others, also meant eating almost every meal in the hospital cafeteria. During some of their visits, they were blessed to be the recipients of gift cards from other donors. These gift cards made a difference to the Gray family and they are committed to paying it forward to families of critically ill children. “Our hope is that these families will use these gift cards to help pay for gas, food, or whatever else they may need while traveling back and forth and/or staying at the hospital.”