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As they did last year at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, FedEx is once again naming a plane in honor of a FedEx employee's child who is also a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
This year, a FedEx Cessna Caravan N981FE was be named for 8-year-old Hayes, who has battled Wilms tumor twice already in his young life. Hayes' dad, Chris, has worked at FedEx for 13 years in the FedEx Tech Connect division. He and Hayes’ mother, Amy, are thrilled at the honor of having a plane named after their son.
"This is recognition for everything Hayes has been through," says Amy. "FedEx and St. Jude are a part of our family. They’re each a part of the Memphis community, and that they work hand in hand to help children who are sick is amazing."
Hayes' connection to St. Jude started in January 2010, when tests revealed a tumor on his left kidney. The doctor believed it was a Wilms tumor, a cancer of the kidney. He sent Hayes and his family to St. Jude, where tests confirmed the diagnosis.
Hayes underwent surgery to remove the tumor, as well as his left kidney. Once he recovered, Hayes underwent 13 rounds of chemotherapy, which he finished that June. He responded well to treatment and was able to start first grade on time in fall 2010.
But during a routine checkup at St. Jude in January 2011, a year after Hayes’ initial diagnosis, scans revealed the cancer had returned, this time to Hayes’ liver.
"We were shocked," says Amy. "We didn’t expect the cancer to come back." Hayes’ continuing treatment included surgery to remove the tumor and eight rounds of chemotherapy.
At St. Jude, Hayes’ family found support and comfort. "The moment you become a St. Jude family, you’re completely taken care of," says Amy. "We really believe that without St. Jude, Hayes wouldn’t be here with us today."
Chris and Amy say their FedEx family lifted them up in tough times.
"My FedEx colleagues made it clear that I had their full support and that my only thoughts should be with my son," remembers Chris. "From my senior executive down to my team, I received countless calls of encouragement and reminders that work would be fine without me."
This unwavering support helped the family focus on Hayes and his treatment.
"They’re family to us," says Amy.
Hayes completed treatment more than a year ago, and today, he is cancer free. He likes playing with his older brother and twin younger brothers. Hayes also loves baseball. His favorite position is pitcher, and when he was sick, he suited up in his uniform, even when he couldn’t play.
"He had a strength and determination," says Amy. "We laugh that those are the things that got him through cancer twice."
Hayes is not only a hero to his parents, he is a hero to FedEx. By dedicating a plane to Hayes, FedEx continues to demonstrate its commitment to all the children of St. Jude.
"The plane dedication is an unbelievable honor for my family," says Chris. "St. Jude is obviously very dear to our family and is so much more than a hospital. Likewise, FedEx is much more than a company. It is an amazing collection of people who, on a daily basis, put someone else’s interests before their own."