“Our little soldier is fighting cancer, but her focus isn’t on herself—it’s on helping other kids endure.” Last August, 6-year-old Jenny...
“Our little soldier is fighting cancer, but her focus isn’t on herself—it’s on helping other kids endure.”
Last August, 6-year-old Jenny Shaw was taking a bath when her parents discovered two masses near her rib cage. They thought it might be a stomach problem, so they took her to the emergency room. There, they received the worst possible news: Little Jenny had cancer.
Jenny’s quick trip to the hospital turned into a four-night stay. Fortunately, her family lived close enough to visit and make her hospital room feel like home. But Jenny noticed that a lot of other kids had few comforts—or even visitors. And she didn’t think that was right. So Jenny started a movement to bring joy to kids in the hospital and let them know they’re not alone.
Jenny has Wilms tumor, a cancer in the kidneys that mainly affects young kids. It’s common for kids with Wilms tumor to be asymptomatic, which means that if Jenny’s parents hadn’t felt the masses on her belly, things could have gotten a lot worse.
“There was nothing to tell us anything was wrong,” says Jenny’s father, Mike. “We thought we would go to the hospital and just get her a prescription. But when the doctors detected cancer, it ended up being a 4-day ordeal. We didn’t anticipate bringing a bag or toothpaste or anything.”
Fortunately for Jenny, her family lived just 15 minutes away from the hospital in Rochester, NY. It was easy for them to visit and bring her necessities like toothpaste and comforting toys.
But many of the kids on Jenny’s floor had families from all over upstate New York. Some even lived 8 hours away.
“Jenny would see a lot of kids in their hospital rooms by themselves, and it made her sad. So she said, ‘Daddy, what can we do for them?’”
The Shaw family motto is “Give back.” Ever since Jenny was a toddler, her parents took her and her three older siblings to serve Thanksgiving meals at The Salvation Army and donate clothes to Goodwill. The message was: “We’re not a community of one. We’re a community of everyone.”
So when Jenny noticed that other kids didn’t have the same support system she did, she knew she had to give back—even in her own time of greatest need. That day, Jenny decided to make care bags for kids in the hospital, and she started a GoFundMe to bring her idea to life.
Jenny calls her bags “survival kits” because they contain necessities like soap, warm socks, coloring books, crayons, toothbrushes, and even a handmade beanie for kids going through chemotherapy—complete with a knit jelly bean in honor of her family nickname, “Jenny Bean.”
With the help of donors, Jenny’s GoFundMe raised over $2,800, enough to give over 40 survival kits and 100 toys to kids in the hospital over the holidays. Jenny now hopes to raise even more money to make sure every kid at the hospital has a survival kit.
And she’s not stopping there. Jenny has proven time and time again that she’s a superhero. (She loves to run and even completed the kid’s portion of a marathon the day after her first chemo treatment.) Now, Jenny is working with her parents to write a book for kids with cancer to help them cope with chemotherapy and let them know, “You’re not different because something’s bad about you. You’re still important and valuable.”
Jenny’s strength gives her parents courage, too. “This experience has just made her so strong,” says Mike. “The things I’ve seen her endure… My wife and I just look at each other and go, ‘Where did this kid come from?’ She has a purpose so beyond what we’ve seen today.”
As a family, they have learned to celebrate every day—especially Jenny’s treatment days: “You don’t have to wait for birthdays or holidays. It can be having ice cream on the back porch together. It can be getting down in the grass and playing with the kids.
“You can’t take any moment for granted. If today’s a good day, we celebrate today. And we’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes.”
Jenny’s parents hope that her story sparks a larger conversation about childhood cancer, too. “One of the things that has been so powerful about GoFundMe is not just the financial resources but also the awareness it creates and the community it brings together. We’ve found that people want to give back and be a part of the journey.
“There is no prevention for childhood cancer. But we can all do something to bring more awareness and help these incredible kids.”
On March 21, 2018, Jenny completed her final chemo treatment, and she and her family have faith that the cancer will be gone for good. She plans to continue bringing hope and joy to other kids with cancer. Congratulations, Jenny!
Special thanks to Jenny, the Shaw family, and all the kid heroes out there.