published Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Cooper: Trinity's Christmas: Give to others

Give up toys on Christmas? Are you kidding? What kind of brain-affected, disconnected, dopey dumbbell — to use words of the era — do you think I am?

That would have been me at 8 years old, visions of the Marx Big Bruiser wrecker or an Aurora racetrack dancing in my head.

But Trinity Parker doesn't think that way.

Asked what she wanted for Christmas, the Signal Mountain 8-year-old thought and thought and finally said she flat out couldn't think of anything, says mom Tiffany Parker. Told to give it a little more time, the Thrasher Elementary School student puzzled and puzzled some more.

Eventually, says Parker, Tiffany thought of a few minor items but really wanted to donate toys "to kids who don't have anything or are less fortunate."

"I thought I had a lot of stuff," Trinity says, "and that I should think about others."

A check of local charities brought mother and daughter to the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, which attempts to optimize a child's quality of life -- and that of his or her family -- at the beginning of diagnosis and continues to do so throughout survivorship.

Once the Parkers checked with the foundation, it was decided that Trinity would partner with it to help raise money for the free annual holiday party for children with pediatric cancer and their families. The hope was they might raise enough money -- $300 -- to fund the art therapy program in which children at the party would participate.

With only a little lead time, says Parker, they raised $190 by last week's event. But by the next day, the amount had exceeded the minimum of $300.

"I was really surprised and happy," Trinity says.

"She was jumping around, screaming, 'We did it, we did it,'" her mother adds.

Later, Parker says, Trinity wanted the goal moved up to $700. Then, if that's reached, $900. And so on.

"She very optimistic," she says.

The fundraising drive will continue through the end of the year.

The party, which was held at the IMAX 3D Theater, drew 119 patients and parents. They were given a private showing of "The Polar Express" and were able to participate in art and music therapy projects.

Art therapist Carrie Ezell led participants in creating a tile quilt that will hang in Hatch's House of Hope, a pediatric cancer care center in the Erlanger Medical Mall. The music therapist brought drums participants could play.

Trinity also attended. "It was really fun being there," the third-grader says.

"She is a people person," Parker says. "She is a member of Signal Mountain Xtreme Cheer, and that has helped her come out of her shell. We don't have to worry about her being shy."

Amy Jo Osborn, president of the Austin Hatcher Foundation, says Trinity's gesture is extraordinary.

"It's something special," she says. "They came and approached us. It's just remarkable to show [that] kindness at such a young age. It speaks well for her and for her parents. We're just happy to be a part of it and to know her."

The partnership was not forged, either, as might be in many cases, by Trinity having a family member or close friend with pediatric cancer.

"That's the one she picked," her mother says.

Parker, though, was delighted with the selection since she lost a grandfather to cancer and had a couple of friends suffer with different strains of the disease when she was growing up.

"It's a cause that's always been near and dear to my heart," she says.

Trinity's idea to help those in need, Parker says, may have come from their yearly exercise of taking unwanted or unneeded toys to Goodwill or other charities just before or just after Christmas in order to make room for her Dec. 25 gifts.

She is "pretty aware of everyone's emotions," her mother says. "She loves to help others."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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