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Aubrey Gifts of Hope

When her granddaughter was undergoing cancer treatment at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital last year, Renee Payne was part of around-the-clock team of family and friends who made sure Aubrey never spent a moment alone during the week she was there.

“It was devastating to see Aubrey in that hospital bed. One minute she was a healthy-seven-year-old girl playing softball and having fun, and the next, she was dealing with something no child should ever have to endure,” shared Renee, who joined the close-knit family when she married Aubrey’s grandfather. “But at least she always had us there to talk to, play games with, or just hold her hand.”

Every time Renee walked into the Children’s hospital, she felt compelled to do something more for the kids who were fighting for their lives, just like Aubrey.

“Seeing it first-hand, these kids facing serious health issues impacted me so dramatically. Some of them weren’t even old enough to understand what was happening. It hit home and is a memory that will always remind me of the importance of giving back,” shared Renee.

Out of that emotion and an appreciation for the wonderful care Aubrey was receiving at St. Joe’s, an idea was born.

It started with a simple Facebook post asking for donations to buy a few toys for the kids on Aubrey’s floor and quickly grew into a full-fledged fundraising campaign to bring a little extra joy into the lives of these young patients.

“People just wanted to help. And then they wanted to keep helping. “

Overwhelmed by the response, and in honor of Aubrey, whose middle name is Hope, Renee decided to formalize her goodwill project by giving it a name: Aubrey’s Gifts of Hope.

Since Aubrey’s hospital stay, Renee – with Aubrey’s help – has delivered hundreds of toys to the hospital and has raised over $5000 for the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, the latter of which has funded programs like music, art, and yoga therapy which all bring smiles to St. Joe’s youngest patients. And Renee has become quite a fundraising phenomenon herself, encouraging local businesses, including her husband’s grocery store and other mom and pop storefronts, to jump on the bandwagon and do their part.

“I hate that my granddaughter is going through this. But because of her journey, my eyes were opened to how a small amount of money could make a huge difference in the lives of the St. Joe’s kids. It also renewed my faith in the goodness of people. Even if it helps just one child smile, well, that’s priceless. I am committed to Aubrey. And I am committed to Aubrey’s Gifts of Hope. I don’t use the term step-grandma with Aubrey, and instead, like to say I’m her bonus grandma. I like to feel as if I’m a bonus grandma to the St. Joe’s kids as well.”

Renee will continue to fundraise for Aubrey’s Gifts of Hope and spread grandmotherly love to the children of St. Joe’s.