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Tatum Parker, a 2-time cancer survivor, helps kids like her

Posted at 12:35 AM, May 02, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — Tatum Parker twice survived cancer and now she's finding a way to remind kids fighting the disease that they're never alone.

For more than 10 years, Tatum has been packing and delivering thousands of bags of goodies for kids at local hospitals who were diagnosed with cancer.

"Whenever I get to give one of these bags in person, it's an amazing feeling and I can see the light shine up on their face," she said. "Just this past month, just at one hospital, we had 26 bags, which is 26 kids that were just diagnosed with cancer in the last month."

Tatum knows first-hand what the packages of toys, gadgets and gift cards mean to the kids her project serves. She beat cancer twice, at six and eight years old.

"Being stuck in that place, that dark room, for so long with nothing to do is just a really tough position to be in, and especially these kids whose parents are single parents or they work or have siblings at home," she said.

Not only does she give back with the Tatum Parker Project, she's inspiring other teenagers, adults and volunteer groups to get involved by collecting toys and holding fundraisers.

"I'm trying to just make this very small mark on this huge world, and I think that anybody has the ability to do something like that and has the ability to push themselves to find something that they're passionate about and act on it," Tatum said.

Now that she's a high school senior, Tatum is making big plans for her future. She's heading to IU to study nursing, inspired by the nurses who cared for her when she was a child.

"I want my career to be something that I know I'm making a difference in people's lives, and I think that nursing is the perfect opportunity to do that," she said.

But Tatum has already made a difference for thousands of Indiana families facing some of life's toughest challenges. And despite major changes ahead, Tatum said her project will continue thanks to her family and volunteers inspired by her service.

"Hopefully, one day there will miraculously be a cure and we won't have to do it any longer, but we don't plan on stopping," she said.

Tatum was recently named a top honoree int he Prudential Spirit of the Community Awards. She will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to represent Indiana, work on service projects and meet with senators. Tatum was also the youngest-ever winner of the Jefferson Award in 2014 when she was 14-years-old.