By Brittany Hall | email@example.com
Dec. 20 is the day that 10-year-old Tyler Youtz has been looking forward to all year. While most fifth graders would consider a birthday or Christmas to be their favorite day of the year, Tyler would rather spend it at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, adorned with a Santa hat. As the yellow delivery truck slows to a stop outside of the hospital’s entrance, he steps out of the passenger door to greet dozens of doctors, nurses and volunteers that are ready to help him bring nearly 2,000 toys to young cancer patients.
As the CEO of his nonprofit Orlando business, Toys from Tyler Inc., Tyler Youtz has brought Christmas to Arnold Palmer Hospital consecutively for six years. Starting with only 11 toys that he wanted to bring to a “friend,” he now plans to beat last year’s record of delivering 1,808 toys to his fellow cancer patients.
His mother, Angela Youtz can only smile as her son directs the volunteers. “Drop-off day is crazy, busy fun! People everywhere, seeing old friends [nurses], sharing our story with families — it truly is an amazing day,” she explains. “It humbles you to know how fortunate you are when you leave the hospital that day and drive to your own home, knowing the other families can’t drive home to enjoy the holidays.”
Angela Youtz is referring to her son’s battle with Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system and one of the most difficult-to-treat childhood cancers, which spread through his abdomen in 2005.
At 4 years old, Tyler awoke one April night screaming from the sensation that his organs were being crushed. Doctors discovered that the cancer had formed a huge mass that was growing and touching his adrenal gland, wrapping around his aorta and pushing his bladder and intestines aside. With stage 4 Neuroblastoma, doctors were skeptical that surgeons would even be able to operate on the young child; instead, they opted for chemotherapy.
“I never wanted to know his odds. We all prayed a lot. I wanted to stay positive for myself, my family and, more importantly, for Tyler,” says Angela Youtz.
After seven months of grueling treatments of chemotherapy, surgery, a bone marrow transplant and radiation therapy sessions, Tyler Youtz won his battle with cancer and escaped with only a surgical scar in the shape of a cross that lies, coincidentally, over his heart.
Now, as the healthy fifth grader plans to enjoy many more Christmases with his family, he also wants to help young children who are experiencing what he has overcome. “I like to see the kids’ faces when they get their gifts and open them,” says Tyler. “Sometimes they ask me to help them open the gifts — that is really cool!”
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