Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The Brooks family, including daughter Kristen, 21, Jeff and Melissa, unload gift bags to be delivered to children at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta last week. The Brooks family created the Taylor Brooks Foundation and began accepting donations soon after their daughter Taylor's death to deliver these gift bags to children prior to every holiday.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- For Taylor Brooks, holidays were important.
Her last Thanksgiving, she made sure the house was filled with family and fun.
But the next Monday, she was back at the hospital for a chemo treatment, and she learned that the cancer wing at the children's hospital was filled that holiday.
Taylor, just 14, was inspired. And she made sure Christmas would be better for the kids battling disease.
Raising money for a Christmas party, Taylor and her family later learned that her push drove an anonymous donor to supply the entire wing at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta with Playstations, televisions and computers.
And now -- four years after Taylor succumbed to a rare form of cancer -- her story is still inspiring people to make holidays special for kids battling cancer.
"Taylor was amazing, and we are just trying to do all we can to fulfill what she wanted," the girl's mother, Melissa Brooks, said before dropping off gift bags at Atlanta's two children's hospitals to help kids celebrate Memorial Day.
Brooks and the rest of the family created the Taylor Brooks Foundation and began accepting donations soon after the teen's death. In four years, it has brought in around $250,000, enabling an annual Christmas party, laundry packages and comfort kits for kids unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, gift packages for every single holiday -- from May Day to Halloween -- and a weekly trek to Atlanta to deliver Krispy Kreme donuts on Sundays.
For two years, the foundation has sponsored a $70,000 annual fellowship, sponsoring a doctor working with patients and doing research.
"What she liked to do was bring cupcakes and cookies to people at the in-patient center," Brooks said. "We have to (continue). She would expect no less."
Brooks is a cancer survivor herself, and she looks back at her treatment and wonders how she could have been so focused on herself while her daughter, who had a tougher treatment, was devoted to others.
"She taught us so much," Brooks said.
Over the years, Brooks has talked to so many parents, some whose children are healthy now and others who weren't so fortunate.
She recounts the story of a mother so grateful to get a laundry kit after her 3-year-old threw up on his favorite blanket. Instead of waiting to wash it at home, she was able to give it back to the boy in an hour.
And there was the weak little boy who gathered the energy to chase a nurse and pelt her with his new Nerf gun after opening a Christmas gift one year.
"No child should be going through what these children go through," Brooks said. "It's all for the kids. ... She left such a legacy."
To donate to the Taylor Brooks Foundation, go to taylorbrooksfoundation.org.