Atlanta teen's gift-giving chain continues to change lives
ATLANTA - Sarah Mulligan thinks she has come to Atlanta's Steve Hightower Salon and Day Spa for a story about wigs, but 9-year old Kailyn Croxall has a surprise up her sleeve.
"It feels really, really good, because I'm really kind, and I love to be kind to people," Kailyn Croxall says.
Because Kailyn knows what it's like to be sick, she's a survivor of Ewing's sarcoma.
"When I was 7 and a half, basically, I had cancer," Croxall says. "And I would fight the nurses, a lot."
During Kailyn's cancer ordeal, Team Summer surprised her with a wonderfully impractical trampoline.
Now, Kailyn is surprising Sarah with a spa day on her 21st birthday.
"It is definitely really cool; I was not expecting it at all," Sarah Mulligan says.
Mulligan in the 100th recipient in a chain of gift-giving, from one young cancer patient to another, begun 5 years ago by a then 15-year old Summer Dale.
"A kid who has gotten a gift will call us up and say, 'Hey I just met a kid in the hospital, and I really want to give a gift," Summer's mother Lynne Dale explains. "Then, we go to work."
Battling a rare soft tissue cancer, Summer Dale began surprising other kids with cancer with a gift they really wanted, to make their treatment easier.
Then, she asked each new gift recipient find another young cancer patient to help.
"It gives them a purpose when they go in the hospital," Lynne Dale says. "They're not thinking about how all these drugs are going to poison them. They're looking around like, 'Hey, is there a kid out here I can help.'"
Sarah Mulligan needed a break from 7 months of non-stop treatment, with no end in sight.
She was diagnosed last August after complaining of leg pain.
"We get a phone call from our youngest, saying, 'Mom and Dad, you need to come home. Sarah is crying and cannot stop crying,'" Marian Mulligan, her mother, remembers.
It was Ewing's sarcoma, bone cancer.
"I walked up to her room and I hugged her, and I kissed her, and she knew," her mother says. "She knew without a word what had happened, and what it was."
So, coming in for a day of pampering feels like a treat.
"With everything that's been going on, this is the first time in a while that a birthday has been really exciting, and something to look forward to," Sarah Mulligan says.
Summer Dale has been gone 5 and a half, but her dream is very much alive.
Friends recently dyed their hair purple, hoping to raise $25,000 for Team Summer.
Instead, they netted $43,000.
At a surprise birthday party after her spa day, Sarah Mulligan isn't thinking about her cancer or the chemo scheduled for the next morning.
She's sipping her first legal drink, a daiquiri, enjoying the moment, for the gift it is.
To learn more about Summer Dale's mission, and the non-profit she inspired, visit www.teamsummer.org.