KALAMAZOO, MICH - Ten-year-old Avery Kushion is beating Santa at his own game. He and his family delivered over 1300 gifts, and smiles, to the kids at Bronson Children’s Hospital.
"There were people that kind of felt down probably,” said Avery donning a Santa hat. “We walked in and gave some people toys and they came out smiling."
That is exactly what Avery and the Kushions said they wanted to do: bring smiles to everyone. They know firsthand what it's like to battle cancer during the holidays. Avery, their son, was diagnosed with kidney cancer five years ago.
“When he was going through cancer, I could feel every pain,” said his twin sister Kirsten.
Avery said he received a lot of gifts during his treatment and wanted to pay it forward. That’s when they started Avery and Kirsten Christmas Smiles.
"I think its extraordinary that this idea was actually initiated by Avery himself several years ago and he’s 10 now,” said Elaine Catlin, Medical Social Worker at Bronson Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.
Jason Kushion, Avery’s dad, said a lot of the donations came from families and companies in the community. They heard about their story through either word of mouth, social media or on the news and immediately began giving. The Kushions set a goal to reach 1200 gifts for this year and they have now gotten to 1286.
"When I think about the fact that most kids his age are thinking about what they’re going to get for Christmas, and he and his sister and his parents are thinking about what they can give, with plans to do this every year, I think its incredible,” said Catlin.
The Kushions said they will continue this for years to come and that he is proud of his children for learning that giving is better than receiving.
“The value that they have right now at 10 years old, we're doing something special for somebody else, it’s invaluable," Jason said.