Elizabeth Pitts was only 7 in November 2007, just after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor six weeks earlier. She was given a teddy bear, Mr. Jingles, by a mom who is the fellow founder of another pediatric cancer non-profit in central Georgia the night before she was to have a large tumor resected from her small 40 pound body. This bear brought her comfort. When her birthday came just a few weeks later, Elizabeth didn’t ask for gifts, she asked for bears to give back to that mom to give to other kids. She called these bears Hugs of Hope because they could go where moms and dads couldn’t like MRI machines, surgery rooms, and more. They could be hugged, squeezed during owies, and loved for many appointments and procedures.
In 2009, Elizabeth was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She continued to collect teddy bears, toys, supplies and more for children in the children’s hospital of Macon until she was diagnosed with leukemia, where her treatment was switched to Wolfson/Nemours-Jacksonville, FL until she passed away on July 1, 2010 complications due to graft vs. host disease from a stem cell transplant.
Before she passed away, she amassed over 2100 items for children including teddy bears, blankets, toys, and so much more. She was so proud of the work that was coming from her Hugs of Hope Project. She wanted us to start a registered non-profit, asking us to serve pediatric oncology parents and siblings, and our community-to educate them and bring awareness to this disease and the need for more services in our area.
In November 2016, Elizabeth’s younger sister, Madeline, was also diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She, too, received her own Teddy Bear, Stripes. She has always been an ambassador for Hugs of Hope for siblings, but now she finds herself representing the fighting kiddos too. Madeline has her own twist on what she would like to see us offer for Hugs kiddos now that she has a new perspective.
We are always learning how to serve our families, and we are grateful for an amazing legacy to honor. Thank you, kiddo…