11-year-old celebrates birthday by giving back

11-year-old celebrates birthday by giving back

Baptist Children’s Hospital patient Jasmine Sursona, 5, was excited to receive a new toy from Mekayla Frazier.

Like many tweens, Mekayla Frazier celebrated her 11th birthday with a joyous party. There was food, fun, cake and gifts.

But, the gifts Mekayla’s family and friends brought to the party were not for her. In lieu of birthday presents, Mekayla asked her guests to bring toys that would be donated to the playroom at Baptist Children’s Hospital. This is the fifth year that Mekayla has invited her friends “to join her in giving back to the hospital that took such good care of her.”

n 2008, when Mekayla was 6 years old, she contracted bacterial pneumonia and spent six weeks in the Baptist Children’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“Needless to say, it was a very difficult time for us,” recalled Mekayla’s mother, Kelly Frazier. “Mekayla received amazing care and support from Laurie Sargent and the entire ICU staff during her time in the hospital. Laurie’s caring ways and dedication had a profound effect on our family, especially on Mekayla.”

Each year since 2008, Mekayla and her family return to the hospital to visit Sargent, the hospital’s senior child life specialist, and deliver the donated toys, games and books. Some of the toys remain in the playroom, and others are delivered as gifts to the hospital’s young patients.

“The toys and games that were made available to Mekayla while she was in the ICU helped her during a difficult and scary time,” Ms. Frazier said. “This is Mekayla’s way of giving back to the hospital and reaching out to the children who are patients.”

During the annual visit to the hospital, there are plenty of hugs and smiles. Ms. Frazier takes many photographs documenting the happy reunion, and Mekayla always includes one of the photos on the thank you cards she sends to her party guests who made the generous donations.

“Mekayla knows that many of our children are here for a long time, and she remembers what it was like to be a young patient,” Sargent said. “It’s wonderful to have these new toys to offer to the children and help them pass the time. We are very grateful to the Frazier family, and to so many families, who are so generous to us.”

Mekayla’s health scare reminded the Frazier family that birthdays — and all days — are reasons to celebrate health and happiness. Although it took Mekayla nearly 18 months to gain strength and fully recover from her illness, the Gulliver Academy student now is stronger than ever, her mother said. Mekayla is a star athlete who juggles and excels in three sports — travel softball and soccer as well as school volleyball.

Mekayla said she hopes her efforts “will inspire others to give back to their favorite cause.”

Her generous spirit has made an impact. When she was in fourth grade, Mekayla’s Gulliver classmates chose Baptist Children’s Hospital as the recipient of their holiday fundraising efforts.

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