10-year-old Cassidy McPartland’s smile lights up a room. And it’s that smile and sweet demeanor that has helped make her fundraising venture for St. Louis Children’s Hospital called “Perfect Pencils” so successful. “When she tells people she is raising money for the kids at Children’s and that she herself is waiting for a lung transplant, people just can’t help but give more,” says Kim, Cassidy’s mom.
“Perfect Pencils” is the brainchild of Cassidy, who paints, colors and sells the #2 classics to family, friends and strangers who can’t resist that smile. “They are perfect because they are colored,” she says. As a budding entrepreneur, she has recently expanded her business to include selling beaded and duct tape bracelets, which have been especially popular at Blue Moon Activewear in Clayton, where Cassidy was invited to sell her items. “The community in St. Louis has just embraced us, and we are so appreciative,” Kim says.
The McPartlands, from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, have been in St. Louis for months waiting for a lung transplant for Cassidy. But this is not the first long hospital stay for the family. When Cassidy was 7 months old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was aggressively treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Cassidy was cancer-free. However, at 6-years-old, the McPartlands noticed their oldest daughter was having breathing problems. Doctors told the family that Cassidy had drug-induced lung disease as a result of the chemo she received as a baby—Cassidy would need a lung transplant.
Doctors in New Jersey told the family that the best place to go was St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “So we drove halfway across the country… but we would have driven halfway across the world to get the best care for her,” says Kim. Six months later, Cassidy got her lungs, which inspired her to start “Perfect Pencils” as a way to give back to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and help other lung transplant patients like her.
Sadly, in the spring of 2013, Cassidy began experiencing chronic lung rejection—her new lungs were failing and she needed to go back to St. Louis and back on the transplant list. While the road has not been easy for the McPartlands, who consists of Cassidy, Kim and her husband and Cassidy’s little sister, Valerie, the family is incredibly grateful for the care they have received at Children’s and the outpouring of support from the St. Louis community. “This has become a second home for us and the nurses and doctors, including Dr. Stuart Sweet, have become like family,” says Kim. “It’s nice to know that we have so many people pulling for us and for Cassidy.”