by: Torie Wells Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Sandbox is a local nonprofit that helps families whose children are battling cancer and other life-altering illnesses.
The group said it has collected hundreds of dollars' worth of gift cards and food for families struggling to have a joyful Thanksgiving.
BJ Hamilton told Eyewitness News that her daughter Kinley had a grateful and thoughtful heart.
"Always thought of others," Hamilton said.
She said Kinley was only 11 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Last October, Kinley passed away. A month later, a difficult holiday changed a bit when a Thanksgiving basket appeared.
"It was amazing just to know that we didn't have to worry," said Hamilton.
This year, the same group that gave her that basket is giving out more than 100 of the Thanksgiving dinner baskets again. The Sandbox is giving the baskets to families in the Charlotte area whose children are battling very serious illnesses.
"It just takes that off them and just lets them know they are being thought of," said Mary Parker, a volunteer.
Parker and her family helped organize the Thanksgiving project this year. She says the meals help some families who have been financially hurt by the cost of treatment, traveling and missed work.
The group is also giving some baskets and food to the Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte. The house is serving more than two dozen families this Thanksgiving with food donated by several groups.
"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be having one," said Jackie Sells.
Sells' son Austin is just 6 years old. She says he has cerebral palsy, and is legally blind and deaf.
Over the past year, she says, they've spent more time in hospitals than home, dealing with health complications. But they are hopeful new hearing aids will help him talk again.
"I can't wait for him to say 'I love you mommy' again," she said. "I am so thankful for everything God has done for all these little children. They are so much stronger, I think, than we give them credit for."
These families are facing such big challenges, a meal may seem trivial. But Sells and Hamilton said it's not.
"Just to know there is someone still out there and still thinks about you," said Hamilton.
"They will never know what it means," said Sells.
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