Brenda Straley lived through every parent's worst nightmare—losing a child. Her daughter, Katharine, was only 6 years old when she passed away after suffering from cancer. The Pay It Forward Challenge gives Brenda the opportunity to give back to several organizations that meant a lot to her family during a very difficult time.
When Brenda's friends and co-workers in Roswell, New Mexico, learn about her mission, they add to her donation—more than doubling her original $1,000. She starts her donations at the Ronald McDonald House in Lubbock, Texas, which was home to her family for two months. They receive three TVs, DVD players and carts, as well as arts and crafts supplies for the children staying there. Next, Brenda makes a donation to the Make-a-Wish Foundation of New Mexico to purchase games and toys for their "Wish Experience" room.
Brenda's next stop is the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital, where she donates games, toys, art supplies and books, as well as money to establish a snack cart to serve families of sick children. Finally, Brenda learns about a little girl in Texas waiting on a bone marrow transplant. Steroid treatments have caused her weight to almost double, and her clothes no longer fit. Brenda surprises her with new clothes, shoes, dolls and a stroller.
For Brenda, giving back to these organizations was the least she could do. "We had so much kindness given to us when Katharine was sick," she says. "When you hear your child has cancer, you don't expect to be blessed, and we were blessed. People blessed us and loved us and helped us through tough times."