Blake Travis started a toy drive for children in the hospital after he, too, struggled with a life-threatening medical condition. It's part of his plan to pay it forward.
“I went for a walk with my mom and dad,” said 12-year-old Blake Travis while going through a book of pictures from his family vacation to Hawaii.
“Before I go zip lining—after I go zip lining,” Blake said with a huge smile pointing out pictures of his adventure.
Blake’s trip was provided by non-profit A Wish with Wings, which grants wishes for young Texans with life-threatening medical conditions.
After that family trip, Blake was ready to pay that kindness forward.
“He does have a big heart, he’s a tiny human with the biggest heart ever,” Angela Travis, Blake’s mom, said while sitting in their Lewisville home.
Blake asked his parents to start a toy drive for kids who are, “stuck in the hospital.”
“And so I said, ‘alright,’ and then he said, ‘I want to put it on Facebook!’” Angela said.
“Hi, my name’s Blake. For Christmas this year, I want to collect 100 toys,” Blake said in his heartfelt Facebook video posted on his mom’s page.
It didn't take long for people from across the country to help him. The first year of his toy drive, he collected 552 items for kids in the hospital.
“I experienced staying there overnight a lot whenever I was little,” Blake said.
Blake has a genetic disorder called Stickler syndrome.
“It has to do with my eyesight, hearing, arthritis and my heart,” Blake said with a smile while trying to recount the many ways he’s affected by the disorder.
Stickler syndrome is also degenerative, meaning his ability to hear and see will eventually get worse.
“It is yes,” Angela said. “So just today, we had a hearing aid appointment and his hearing has gotten a little worse, which is to be expected. We know it’s going to get worse, we just don’t know how and how fast.”
Uncertain of the future, his family keeps moving forward.
Over the last four years of toy drives, they’ve collected and donated more than 6,500 gifts for children in the hospital.
In return for his giving, Blake has also received a gift. “Joy,” Blake said. “Because of all the toys I do, that’s how many smiles I have—that kids have.”
His kindness, charity, and selfless service to others earned him the Student Hero Award. He was handed the large plaque during a presentation at his school.
“I got nominated for it without even knowing,” Blake said. “There’s 15 students that won this award out of the entire state of Texas.”
It’s a huge honor that came with a bonus. “I got to skip a few minutes of class! Taking pictures and all that," Blake said. "It felt good!"
“To have seen how much he struggled in the beginning of life... literally just to breathe and then how much he struggled to eat — things that most of us take for granted with typical children — and then to know and to see how much he wants to do for others, it’s a proud parent moment,” Angela said.
Blake is in the process of creating a non-profit called Blake’s Journey. Then, his family will host additional fundraisers to benefit children who are receiving treatment in any hospital.