Chloe Cox only spent 13 short years in this life, but for one so young she made a huge impact on the people around her.
When she was 12 years old, Chloe was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Instead of asking 'why me', Chloe chose to embrace the time she had by giving back to others and starting the Chloe's Journey of Faith Foundation.
"She had surgery at Arkansas Children's in Little Rock and there she wasn't really around a bunch of kids with cancer but when we got to MD Anderson to the adolescent center, she saw kids with no eyes, no limbs and missing hair. After our trip there, we got back in the car and she told me she felt like she wanted to do something for those kids because they had it so much worse off than she did," said Michelle Cox, Chloe's mom.
The mother and daughter talked about it and decided that making blankets for those young cancer patients would be a great way to bring joy to their lives.
"I asked what she thought she wanted on the blankets and she said angel wings were important so our design included angel wings and an arrow. The arrow represents her strength and courage to battle and the angel wings represent the angels who were around her," Michelle said.
Chloe recruited her friends to help and blanket-making commenced. It wasn't hard to get the community behind Chloe's idea. People raised money and made donations for fabric. Local schools got involved, including Liberty Eylau, Trinity and Red Lick. A Boy Scout troop chose to support the effort as an Eagle Project.
It was a labor of love for Chloe and something she received great joy from.
Chloe wanted to do more than make soft blankets to comfort children. She wanted to share a message with them — a message that focused on her faith in God.
"Every blanket that went out, we put Bibles and a card in. The card told about her journey and who she was. It gave her so much joy to hand those blankets out," Michelle said.
"She would go through chemo and be sick and tired and I'd offer to hand the blankets out for her but she wouldn't let me. It brought her peace and joy."
Chloe lasted 13 months before succumbing to the cancer on July 26, 2017.
Her faith is evident in the words she left behind in her journal. Even in the face of such a serious illness Chloe continued to put her trust in God.
" I don't understand how people don't believe in God. No matter what happens in life I will still believe in God. There is no doubt in my mind that God is with me right now. I can feel something on my head right now and it's not the tumor. It's the hand of God. Even though I might be in this room right now by myself, I know that I'm not alone. I can feel the angels surrounding me right now. When I get better I want to tell my story not of a miracle but a miracle of God."
Chloe's journals have been a huge comfort for Michelle.
"People say she didn't get her miracle but along the way she had many miracles and we had many miracles as a family," she said.
It took awhile before Michelle was ready to pick up where Chloe left off but after a time she knew how important it was to continue Chloe's Journey of Faith Foundation.
"It became so important to her friends and family and the community, we wanted to continue it and make sure we kept doing what she started," Michelle said.
Michelle, with help from friends and family, recently had the organization incorporated as a 502 (c) 3 nonprofit. She knew she wanted to expand the services offered. They still give away blankets but there is other important work to focus on too.
"We want to fund pediatric brain cancer research. To date there are four FDA approved drugs for treating cancer in children, not just brain cancer, all cancer. Right now we are in collaboration with Alex's Lemonade Stand. We are helping fund a $250,000 grant. Our part is to fund $25,000 from September of this year to September of next year," Michelle said.
Alex's Lemonade Stand is a large, well-established non-profit that provides an umbrella for smaller organizations all working toward the same goal more pediatric cancer research.
"Smaller organizations are what get pediatric cancer research done and what gets legislation done. These smaller organizations are going in with larger ones to get things accomplished. It really takes a network. The smaller organizations are basically the backbone in pediatric cancer research. NIH (National Institute of Health) spends less than four percent of funds for cancer research on pediatric cancer across the board and less than one percent of that goes to pediatric brain cancer research," Michelle said.
"So one of our goals is to get the message out about how much of a need there is for pediatric cancer research, not just for brain cancer but across the board and we also want to help aid any kids in our community who need help. We want to be able to extend the same kind of help that our community extended to us when we needed it," she said.
"Our main purpose is to pursue what she started and build on her legacy. She always wanted to help people and make a change. She was concerned about everyone else She never saw herself as the one in need. She saw everyone else being the ones in need. I think that's ultimately what we're here for to serve each other in faith and love," Michelle said. "When you walked in her presence it didn't matter if she knew you or didn't, she told you 'thank you' and that she loved you and she meant it. She was super special."
Chloe's Journey of Faith Foundation is gearing up for its first fundraiser, Knots for Noggins 5K at 8 a.m. Nov. 2 at Northside Church, 5801 Summerhill Road, Texarkana, Texas. Funds raised will benefit pediatric brain cancer research. The entry fee is $30 and runners can sign up at runsignup.com.
Knots for Noggins 5K at 8 a.m. Nov. 2 at Northside Church, 5801 Summerhill Road, Texarkana, Texas. Funds raised will benefit Chloe's Journey of Faith Foundation and will be used to fund pediatric brain cancer research. The entry fee is $30 and runners can sign up at runsignup.com. Volunteers are needed. For more information visit the Knots for Knoggins Facebook page or visit the organization's website at cjof.org.