Since St. Jude opened its door more than 50 years ago, the survival rate of childhood cancers has gone from 20% to 80%, but there is still work to do. A North Georgia family whose son lost his battle with cancer continues to support and raise money for St. Jude hoping one day the survival rate is 100%.
Kelly Heard describes her son Cody as "vibrant, red headed, strong willed." "Cody loved to play baseball. That was his joy in life was to play baseball, be on a ball field", remembers Cody's dad, Greg.
It's been 14 years since Greg and Kelly Heard lost their little boy, Cody.
Cody was two-years-old when doctors diagnosed him with neuroblastoma. He spent the next four years fighting for his life at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "That was one place that we always wanted to get to. That's strange and weird for people to hear that, but that was like a safe place for us. We felt safe there", says Greg.
While doctors worked to save Cody, the St. Jude staff took care of his family, providing for every need. Kelly went in to premature labor during Cody's treatment. "I delivered Lucas in Memphis. That nurse drove me to the hospital while he (Greg) stayed with Cody and she helped me deliver. I mean, you don't find that at just any hospital", says Kelly.
Three years later, the Heards learned Cody's cancer was back and had a tough decision to make. Kelly says, "They didn't have anything to offer that we hadn't already done so there wasn't any point in doing that to Cody again, so he played his last ball game that day that they told us it was back."
Now the Heards make it their mission to support the hospital that gave them more time with their son. "What they did for Cody, they gave him four years that he might not have had if we wouldn't have been there", adds Greg.
They organize a walk each year in Cody's memory. A motocross event helps raise money for other patients. But perhaps the most meaningful tribute to Cody stands at the Boynton ball fields. Field three named after the little boy who his parents hope no one will forget. Greg says, "People always think they're stepping on their tongue or something, saying 'Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought that up.' But we want them to because we don't ever want people to forget Cody."
As they share the memory of their son, the Heards also share their story of hope. "We want every family that has to go through it to have what we had when we were there."