Selena Pargas, 14, is trying to ease the pain of hundreds of kids who spend their days and nights in hospitals.
It’s a feeling she knows well because she’s been there.
“God placed it in my heart to collect stuffed animals for kids in the hospital,” she said.
In 2011, doctors discovered Selena had a malignant tumor.
“She had had it about 7 years,” said her mother, Gloria Pargas. “It was just a bump that grew on the side of her chest area.”
"I was really ok with it because I knew God would get me through all of this,” Selena said.
Two surgeries later, doctors were able to remove all the tumor and her cancer had not spread.
That’s when Selena got the idea for “Operation Selena” to collect stuffed animals to deliver Methodist Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.
In two weeks during December 2012, she collected more than 600 stuffed animals.
"When we went to the hospital, it just brought back memories,” said Gloria. “And I just thank God that it wasn’t as serious as we thought it was.”
“Just to see all the smiling kids coming up to me and smiling at me and saying thank you,” Selena recalled.
And this year her mission continues. Selena’s goal was to collect 1,000 stuffed animals in 2013.
To date, she has 1,419.
And she’s hoping for more so she can use the kindness of the community to deliver as many smiles to kids as she can.
"Think of a happy place that they would want to be and just know they'll get through what they’re going through just like I did,” she said.
Gloria & Selena plan to expand their number of delivery sites in 2013, too. And they will deliver the animals on the anniversary of Selena’s remission date- December 21.
For health reasons, local hospitals will only accept brand new stuffed animals. But other shelters will take gently used ones.
However, the Pargas family is looking for help getting the used stuffed animals cleaned before delivery.
For information on how you can help or donate, visit the Operation Selena Facebook page.