Want testimony to the power one person holds in making a difference?
A retired teacher emailed us in confidence on Tuesday about third-grader Bryce Edwards.
Bryce, as many in Cleveland know, has leukemia.
The email said he was heading back to St. Jude this week.
“I really don’t know what you can do, but the situation with Bryce Edwards is laying heavy on my heart,” she said.
Little Bryce is no stranger to the Memphis hospital, and he’s spent many, many nights there receiving some of the best care around.
One of his sisters, who is in fourth grade, is ready to donate her bone marrow in a transplant if needed. But for now, Bryce will begin yet another round of chemotherapy.
He’s been through more than most people five times his age.
Knowing there has been a lot of community support for Bryce along his journey — prayer chains, chili suppers, Zumba-thon fundraisers and a send-off party and police escort when he took his Make-A-Wish trip — we thought Cleveland would once again step up to the plate and knock it out of the park.
In fact, we knew it.
As soon as that call for help came, we spent time texting and emailing key people in the school system and asked them to help us get the kids involved in wearing “Blue for Bryce” on Thursday.
It was a simple idea, but with involvement, we thought it was one that could have a big impact on a boy whose tiny body is worn and tired from fighting so much.
Anything to lift his spirits. It sure couldn’t hurt, right?
We talked to some teachers who liked the idea, ran with it and quickly helped us turn it into a town-wide support system in less than 48 hours.
We asked the CHS boys’ basketball team to salute Bryce with a message at Tuesday’s game, and once again, we depended on the CHS student council to lead their classmates and urge participation in serving a bigger purpose. Both groups are led by men with caring hearts.
(CHS STUCO and the boys’ basketball team also both pitched in to aid us with Coats 4 Kids, and STUCO came out to help us paint Main Street storefronts.)
By utilizing our organization’s Facebook mascot, “Tiger Pride Guy” to get the word out, we encouraged students (and regular citizens) to tag #BlueForBryce photos so Bryce’s family could show him how many care.
Boy, do they care.
A photo of the CHS basketball team wearing athletic tape on their wrists and scribbled with “Play for Bryce” gave the little one a dose courage at the hospital on Thursday morning.
“Just got to show Bryce this post before his procedure this morning. It got a huge smile! Thank you,” mom Sharon Garrison wrote to us.
There was blue everywhere on Thursday. On the buses (literally blue bows and signs on the big, yellow buses), the playground, classrooms, lunchrooms, restaurants and department stores. Pictures even showed up from other counties as CHS alumni felt the hometown connection.
Because of the little effort it took to spring into action, alert the right people and the reaction of hundreds of caring people latching on with love, there’s a very ill little boy who, tonight, is very aware that he is special.
He is aware that he isn’t just a person who is loved by his family and some classmates, but he’s a person who is loved by an entire town simply because he lives here and because the townspeople choose to love him.
It’s something every child should feel, sick or not, and it’s something every person should know.
Your community should be your shoulder. It should be your smile when you can’t muster one. It should be your strength when you’ve grown too weak. It should be your joy in triumph.
That’s what community is. It’s people who take pride in sharing heritage and want to make sure the right things take the most precedence.
An entire town of people walked around Thursday wearing a badge of bravery for one little boy. An entire town spent the day thinking of him and likely will spend coming days doing the same.
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try,” is one of our mottos here at the Mayberry Foundation.
Well, one person — the former teacher we told you about — set things into motion, possibly without knowing the reach her little email could have.
“Thank you Cleveland Tigers and everyone who wore blue for Bryce today,” Sharon posted on Facebook. “He was so proud he told everyone at St. Jude today.”
Because of one person’s concern, our quick idea, a few emails, phone calls and effort by teachers and students, Bryce Edwards knows he has an army of people who love him.
The Cleveland Brigade, if you will.
It’s a unit that, with a little nudge, is happy to answer the call of duty time and time again. It even can assemble in less than 48 hours.
Let this serve as one more reminder that anyone can make a difference. It hardly ever takes much time, only a decision to step outside of our own selves for a moment.
You can make a little boy’s spirit light up. You can teach children about compassion. You can ensure this community continues be a place where character and love are the beacons of direction.
A little effort can give an ill child a lasting memory.
A little effort is the heartbeat of any small town.
The Mayberry Foundation of Cleveland