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The Value of Paying It Forward

Gail Nussbaum is a breast cancer survivor who finished her last round of chemotherapy in May of 2010. While she battled cancer, Gail had the support and encouragement from her parents, family, and friends to help her through the darkest days.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of her last chemo treatment, Gail packed up her things and went on a vacation. But while she was traveling, she felt a deeper calling–one rooted in lessons of kindness and generosity. Gail thought back to what her parents had taught and instilled in her— the importance of paying it forward. When the second anniversary came around, she decided to celebrate in a different way.

“On my second cancer-free anniversary, I reserved Build-A-Bear Workshop for a private party, and I invited 45 of my closest friends to come. I paid for the physical bear, and they outfitted the bear that went to children facing unimaginable medical challenges, including cancer,” Gail shares. 

After the Build-A-Bear session, Gail took 70 bears to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Denver (RMHC). RMHC is a nonprofit organization that houses families who are seeking medical treatment for their seriously ill children. These children, fighting battles far beyond their years, found comfort in the simple embrace of a teddy bear–a tangible reminder that they were not alone in their struggles. 

As Gail was leaving the RMHC, one of the staff members said, “See you next year!” Well, to say the least, Gail came back the next year, and the one after that, and the one after that.

After her second year, Gail expanded her bear donations beyond RMHC to include Brent’s Place, a nonprofit providing long-term housing for children and their families battling cancer and other serious illnesses. Recognizing that Brent’s Place is a home away from home, Gail wanted each child to feel special and loved. And that’s exactly what she did. Every bear that goes to Brent’s Place is customized and unique to the child.

Gail’s annual Build-A-Bear event has blossomed into a cherished tradition known as Gail Pays It Forward

“Over the period of the last 12 years, the 45 friends turned into close to 200 friends and colleagues who attend my event every year and help me celebrate by creating special bears for kids,” Gail says. 

Children battling cancer can take these specially made bears to appointments, cuddle with them after surgeries, and always have a comfort source, even when they are feeling scared in the hospital. 

“It was so hard as an adult to go through a cancer battle; I can’t even imagine for these children what it feels like,” Gail says. 

But Gail’s act of kindness didn’t stop there. Her parents, who taught her how important it is to give back, inspired her to continue to pay it forward. But Gail’s father lost his battle with cancer, and a year and a half later, her mother was in hospice. 

“A couple of years ago, when my mom was in the hospital and then hospice, I made the decision I wanted to write a book dedicated to my parents for teaching me the value of paying it forward. I wanted to do something for my parents to honor and remember them,” Gail shares. “So I literally wrote this book in two weeks and found an illustrator, all while sitting with my mom, by her side, as she was lying in hospice.”

As nurses and doctors filtered in and out of her mother’s room, Gail poured her heart into writing her first children’s book, Paisley’s Pay It Forward Adventure

“I created this book, worked with the illustrator and had it published six months to the day of my mom’s passing, which is unusual – because it usually takes a while to create and publish a book–I was very determined,” Gail says. 

Paisley’s Pay It Forward Adventure
Paisley is a teddy bear excited to find a new home full of adventure and surprised to end up in a hospital. Though not where Paisley expected to land, Paisley finds purpose through helping Ahna, a young girl battling cancer. Paisley soon finds his journey doesn’t end with Ahna, instead, he finds himself traveling from child to child! From spending time with each child, Paisley learns what it means to pay it forward and the power of small acts of kindness!

While this heartfelt children’s book is fiction, it is inspired by a real girl named Ahna. When Ahna was 11 years old, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). While Ahna was receiving treatment at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, she attended the Gail Pays It Forward event in 2016, where she received a special teddy bear to support her through her cancer journey. 

Since then, Ahna has completed her cancer treatment and remains in remission. In 2018, Ahna and her mother traveled from Montana to Denver to participate in the annual Gail Pays It Forward event, where she poured her love into making a special teddy bear for a child in need. Today, Ahna is set on going to college to study biology with a concentration on pre-med.

Inspiring Others To Pay It Forward
All of Paisley’s Pay It Forward Adventure proceeds go directly to three nonprofits: Brent’s Place, RMHC, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). 

Gail continues to hear from parents how their child has been inspired to help others by paying it forward. 

“There’s a ripple effect. If every child reading this book learns about the power of small acts of kindness and the value of paying it forward, I think of how many lives are being touched by simply reading this book!” Gail shares and hopes that every child who reads this book learns the value of helping others. 

Brent’s Place offers independent living accommodations for children and families with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses while they receive treatment at local hospitals. 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation originated from the lemonade stand of 4-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who battled cancer and aimed to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. When she passed away at the age of 8, she had raised $1 million. Since then, the foundation evolved into a national fundraising movement. 

Get your copy of Paisley’s Pay it Forward Adventure today! $24.99

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