GARLAND — During the holidays, it's sometimes the simple things that make us smile despite all our hardships.
For Andrew Russell, 12, a simple wish turned into a show of Christmas giving from around the world.
The Quinlan boy was diagnosed with ependymoma, a rare form of cancer, more than eight years ago. Andrew has undergone two brain surgeries and one spinal surgery and continues chemotherapy treatments.
"We've had several pretty grim prognoses that he's beat out where they've only given us months," said Misty Russell, Andrew's mother. "At one point in time, he wasn't supposed to make it past eight, and he did."
This year, a new tumor was found in a different part of Andrew's brain. But, Misty says Andrew refuses to give up and he continues to show his strength as he undergoes new treatments. Misty says their family cherishes each day and they live life "like there's no tomorrow."
And that's why this Christmas season has been so special for the Russells. With the help of their friends, Brianne Sparkman and Tracy Nowlin Hawkins, the family has seen an outpouring of giving that has brightened their world.
Sparkman has led the effort to collect Christmas cards for Andrew, who she calls her hero. It's something she did six years ago and felt inspired to do again this year.
"Let's make sure their home is filled with cards full of love, prayers, encouragement, laughs and maybe a little something special for a special family," she wrote on a Facebook page she set up to spread the word.
Her call for cards was answered by more than 7,000 people worldwide. The family has received so many, they set up a P.O. Box to help ease the work of their local post office workers.
And with each day a new box of Christmas cards come sit ready for Andrew to pick up. The smile they've brought to Andrew's face has also brought back the happiness that nearly vanished from the Russell household.
"We had a really tough year this year and we were pretty much in a really dark place, and then this happened," Misty said. "And it really brought back some of the joy that we lost."
As for Andrew, he still keeps it simple when asked what he loves most about receiving Christmas cards.
"I like reading them and seeing what people think," he said.
Tuesday brought some more joy as workers at the Garland Texas Land and Cattle gave Andrew a bag full of cards written by staff and customers.
Hawkins set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money as Andrew continues to undergo chemotherapy. You can make a donation by visiting the page here.
You can also send cards and letter to their new P.O. Box:
PO Box 365
Point, TX. 75472
or send packages to:
1117 Dove Trail
Quinlan, Texas 75474