Easter baskets help hospitalized children in Texas


The one time he went to see 10-year-old Lilly Ruiz, a longtime family friend sickened with bone cancer, the room was dark and sad.

The little girl with the constant smile couldn't talk or eat. Blisters closed her throat. It was June 2009. A month later doctors would take her leg.

"It was so horrible," Jordan said.

On Sunday, Jordan returned to Driscoll again, but Lilly wasn't there.

She died a month shy of her 11th birthday at the hospital after the happiest day in her life, the day doctors told her she was in remission, said Adriana Miller, Jordan's mother and Lilly's librarian at her school in Hebbronville.

Even in death, Lilly had a smile, Adriana said.

In the months since, grieving family and friends have coped with the loss by trying to keep alive Lilly's legacy of positivity and optimism.

Which is how they hatched the idea to give Easter baskets to all the sick children at Driscoll, even though doing so meant returning to the place where Lilly spent some of her darkest days.

Bringing those Easter baskets to the sick children was the kind of thing Lilly would've loved, Jordan said. It's what she would have done, he said.

So, on Sunday, family and friends loaded up five vehicles and drove two hours from Hebbronville to Corpus Christi. The cars were stuffed with 200 candy-colored, cellophane-wrapped Easter baskets brimming with toys. The number of baskets outnumbered patients.

Lilly's family and friends left baskets at the front desk before taking the elevator to the fourth floor, where children with cancer and blood disorders are treated. It's where Lilly stayed.

As the elevator rose, goose bumps covered Jordan's body and tears filled his eyes.

"The whole floor makes me uneasy," he said.

The teenager fought back the emotion threatening to dissolve his composure. Others cried but Jordan didn't. He held it together, he said, to be strong for the sick children who need that kind of strength.

"It's not about me," he said. "It's about the kids."

Jordan and the others filled an office with baskets and toys, leaving Easter goodies for the hospital to give away throughout the week.

Jordan said he hopes the donated gifts leave the kids with more than a fleeting smile. He wants them to keep the faith, stay strong. Know that people are praying.

"Things do get better," he said. "You have to keep fighting. You have to give yourself a chance and just stay happy and positive like Lilly did. She never stopped smiling."

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