SALT LAKE CITY — Jamie Toftum is helping make life a bit easier for children who have cancer by building their courage with building blocks.
"There's no words to describe when you touch a child, when you help that child and give them a moment of joy," Toftum said.
Toftum, director for the Utah chapter of LEGOs for Leukemia, says the children who endure chemotherapy and long hospital stays at Primary Children's Medical Center are the real heroes, not her. But she will not deny the special connection she has with them.
"There's no words to describe when you touch a child, when you help that child and give them a moment of joy."
"For anybody to hear the words, 'You have cancer,' it's devastating," Toftum said.
She knows this fact all too well. Toftum vividly remembers her own visit to the doctor's office two years ago.
"I actually said to my husband, right before she came in, I said, 'She's going to come in and tell me I'm a hypochondriac and there's nothing wrong with me, I need a psychologist,' " Toftum said.
The problem wasn't in Toftum's head, though; it was in her blood.
"She came in and said, 'You have leukemia,' " Toftum said.
"A box of LEGOs can make the difference between a really, really crumby day and day that isn't so bad."
Never one to sit around feeling sorry for herself, Toftum discovered LEGOs for Leukemia and quickly became head of the program's Utah chapter.
"The majority of my donations come from people who have either lost someone to cancer or know someone who's fighting cancer," Toftum said.
One of the first LEGO sets Toftum sent out went to 6-year-old Carter Hadlock, a Washington state boy with Utah ties who is battling leukemia.
"It was nice to see him really excited over something for the first time in several weeks, and he immediately opened his package and started building all sorts of contraptions and things with his LEGOs," said Amanda Hadlock, Carter's mother.
Last March, the Utah LEGOs for Leukemia chapter dropped off 100 boxes of donated LEGO bricks at Primary Children's Medical Center. Toftum wants to collect 900 LEGO brick sets this year, the average number of children who receive treatment at Primary Children's.
"That would be a dream," Toftum said, "that every child has something that gives them a creative outlet to deal with this illness."
Hadlock said she believes the folks who run LEGOs for Leukemia are heroes who have brightened her family's darkest days.
"A box of LEGOs can make the difference between a really, really crummy day and day that isn't so bad," Hadlock said.
Toftum is still fighting her own battle with leukemia, and she was also diagnosed in February with thyroid cancer. But she still has plans to make her annual LEGO donation to Primary Children's next month.
For more information on where to donate, you can contact Toftum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.