10 Rising Hearts: Teen touches lives of patients at ETCH

Those who know Carys Mullinax are confident that she will continue to make a difference 

An East Tennessee teen helps other patients even as she fights her own health battles.

Carys Mullinax was always athletic. She competed in karate and the elementary school student even earned a spot on the football team.

A week before the season started, she was diagnosed with Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura: ITP. It is an autoimmune disease. She ended up at East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

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That's where Cheryl Allmon met Carys. The Director of Volunteer Services and Programs had tickets to a UT football game.

"I still remember going to the room and I thought she was going to come unglued when I asked her if she wanted to go to a UT football game. That was the beginning of my journey with that sweet, sweet girl," Cheryl said.

This sweet girl is now 14. She survived ITP only to be diagnosed with Lupus.

Carys Mullinax said, "I have Lupus. It's an autoimmune disease. There's two types of Lupus but I have SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) where it attacks my organs. It is attacking my kidney and I only have one. I was only born with one kidney."

She has one kidney and one very big heart.

During her treatment at Children's Hospital she noticed the younger patients looking forward to short rides in a little red wagon.

"Through everything they were going through - the treatments, the ivigs (intravenous immunoglobulin), everything - that's what they found joy in. You know what I mean? Riding around in the wagon and getting to play with their toys. So I thought it would be good to bring more toys up here for them to enjoy," Carys said.

Then earlier this year she spent six weeks at Children's Hospital. She was very, very sick.

Cheryl said, "Upon getting out of here the first thing she did was to start setting up at different places to raise money to buy toys for the other kids who are here. It wasn't Carys thinking oh I am so sick, somebody do something for me. It was what can I do for somebody else."

Carys said, "I already have a special connections with everyone up here. They saved my life twice. And so I thought it would be good to help the kids."

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She hosted a bake sale. No charge for the cupcakes, just make a donation. Then she bought toys with that money. Word spread and more donations came in. Her classmates at North Cumberland Elementary in Crab Orchard even gave her colorful blankets to pass along. Carys makes a point to pick out the perfect toys.

"I always try to get something that whenever I was little, something I would have had fun with like building blocks or something that can distract the patients from what they are going through at the time," she said.

She brings the toys to Cheryl in Volunteer Services at the hospital then the staff distributes them. The patients don't see Carys or personally thank her.

"I didn't want the attention from it. As long as the patients are able to smile then I am happy," she said.

Cheryl said, "She is going to make a difference in the world. Carys puts others first all the time. She is just so kind and generous and just loving. Carys inspires you to want to do more. She makes me want to be a better person."

Carys said, "I want to raise a lot more money. I want to bring in more toys because all in all these kids are not promised tomorrow so I want to make sure they smile today."

Carys Mullinax's next bake sale is June 24 and 25 at the Hole in Your Seat truck show in Crossville.

Her sister established a Go Fund Me page to help with hospital costs but now the purpose has shifted and all funds go to the toy drive effort for Children's Hospital.

If you would like to donate items to Children's Hospital then check out the guidelines here.

We are featuring students making a difference here in East Tennessee in our new series called 10 Rising Hearts. These are students who reach beyond their schools and families to help make our community better. To nominate a student, please send an email describing them and their community service to 10Hearts@wbir.com

10 Rising Hearts