Jordyn Small was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at age 13, and her treatment included 15 months of chemotherapy.

On a weekly basis, she traveled to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for a trying routine – arriving early, undergoing testing and evaluation, and then receiving the chemotherapy treatment, along with anti-nausea medication, steroids and other medicines.

Throughout this routine, the sophomore in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, noticed something as she would find herself waiting, sometimes for an hour or more, for the various phases of the weekly regimen.

“You had three different groups of kids [receiving treatment] – the babies who had no idea what they were doing, toddlers and young children running around holding onto their IV bags and chemo bags,” she said, “[and] then you had teenagers, who knew what was happening to them but were so closed off.”

She added, “They knew what was happening to them, and they just had no way of having a not-so-terrible time.”

Moved to make life better for these young patients, Small started a drive in late 2019 to try to provide gifts to teenagers undergoing treatment at CHOP. What began as a modest goal turned into something much larger.

“My goal was $800, and we raised over $13,000,” she said during a January interview.

The day before Christmas Eve, Small and her parents dropped off the items to the Child Life Specialist at CHOP for distribution to the young patients. Patients received gift cards to sites like Amazon or iTunes, so that they could purchase games, music, movies or books to help pass the time at the hospital; lip balm to help with dry lips as a result of treatment; mints to help alleviate the taste of metal; fuzzy, warm socks, and a rock with the word “hope” on it, that the patients could hold while going through treatment.

“They were so grateful,” said Small, adding that the child life specialist was thrilled to be able to deliver the items to the patients. “She loved what we did, [and] she agreed with us that teens are often overlooked.”

Initially, Small kicked off her fundraising project through the Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) club at Donovan Catholic, with the support of school administrators. After the school issued a news release and her parents shared information on social media, it continued to expand.

“It just kept growing and growing,” she said. “People from all over were donating. It just grew into something amazing.”

For more information or to support Small’s efforts, email her mother, Susan Small, at cjcjsm6@gmail.com.