Shopping spree brings smiles to kids with childhood illnesses

Each year, hundreds of kids battling childhood illnesses miss out on events leading up to the holidays such as shopping for gifts. But Saturday, volunteers at Dell Childrens Hospital and the Assistance League of Austin helped spread some Christmas cheer by hosting a holiday shopping spree.

Three-year-old Echo Young searched through tables of toys looking for the right gifts to give to his family this Christmas. Steve Young, Echo's father, says the family learned about Buck's Barn holiday shopping event when Echo was diagnosed with leukemia five months ago.

"He loves ripping packages and so for him being able to pick out presents for the rest of the family 
and even for himself. Seeing him smile picking out presents for everyone is pretty cool," said Young.

The event was started in 2007 by Buck Schroeter, who was diagnosed with leukemia and spent many Christmas's confined to the hospital unable to shop for his family and friends.

The fundraiser has since continued to grow year after year with the help from the community. 

This year the Assistance League of Austin has taken the event over and continued on with tradition. 

Some tradition Steve Young says he's grateful for. "This is a super challenging time of the year. With all the crowds, having to be isolated for the most part. But doing a private shopping experience like this is super special because we wouldn't be able to do it otherwise," said Young. 

For months the nonprofit has collected thousands of donated toys and gifts.

More than a hundred inpatient and outpatient kids were able to pick out unwrapped presents for each member of their families. "At first they're a little timid in the beginning they come in quietly and then all of a sudden their faces are lighting up when they see gift selections," said Jeanette Robbins, Co-Chair of Bucks Barn Project.

Santa's helpers than wrapped the gifts and topped each one off with a bow. Ready for delivery. 

"They're always thankful so appreciative of what we are doing and that's why we are here." 

Some kids who weren't well enough to leave their rooms to shop, weren't forgotten.

Volunteers hand delivered their gifts. 

Young says events like this lift the spirits of many children and offers them a break from doctor visits and hospital rooms. "When we come here the staff and volunteers are so good at making him smile and laugh and he enjoys all the people he's met here," said Young. 

Robbins says they're still in need of volunteers to find out how you can help, click here.