When a child faces a cancer diagnosis, family life is forever changed.
For the Cody and Kari Russell of Hendersonville, it happened in May of 2012 when their four-year-old son Brooks was diagnosed with a tumor on his spinal cord.
The following months were filled with out of state trips to specialists, chemotherapy sessions and spinal surgery. Cody took time off from his job to be with his son, and the medical bills piled up.
Brooks' uncle approached the family with an idea.
“What would you think about making some t-shirts to help raise money for medical bills, expenses, whatever it may be? I thought it was a great idea,” Cody Russell told Nashville's News 2.
Cody Russell created a t-shirt specifically for his son, who is a huge fan of the Spider Man franchise. The shirts are red and blue, and feature a cartoon-inspired rendering of their son on the front and a stitch on the back symbolizing Brooks' surgical scar.
“When he first saw it he loved it,” Cody Russell said.
Their ordeal has connected the Russell family with other families going through a similar struggle.
Amanda Clark's four-year-old daughter Addy is battling three inoperable brain tumors. She met the Russells at a chemo session at a Nashville hospital.
The Russells made a customized shirt for Addy. It features a large cupcake with pink frosting and the inscription “cupcake cutie.”
“It means a lot to us, and what they've done for our family has been a big help to us,” Clark said.
The t-shirts are sold on the Russell's Web site and are only available for a few weeks. At the end of the sale period, the profits will be given directly to the child's family.
The Russells plan to make shirts for other families battling pediatric cancer. So far they've created shirts for five families, one as far away as New York.