Hanberry Family Matches Gifts to Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
In this 2016 file photo, Maggie Hanberry poses for a photo before rappelling down the Trustmark building in downtown Jackson during the Over the Edge with Friends fundraiser for Friends of Children's Hospital.

Maggie Hanberry’s valiant fight against stage IV colon cancer is the inspiration for a memorial that will match gifts for renovations to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Mississippi.

Dr. Anderson Collier, D. Jeanette Pullen Chair of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at UMMC, division chief and director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Mississippi, thanks Melissa and Phil Hanberry for the Giving Grace Fund’s donation toward renovations of the center.

Maggie’s parents, Phil and Melissa Hanberry of Hattiesburg, are matching gifts to the center’s renovation fund up to $100,000 through the Giving Grace Fund they started.

“We are fulfilling a promise to Maggie to offer support to the clinic through the Giving Grace Fund, founded in her honor and continuing in her memory,” Melissa Hanberry said. “While the purpose of the fund is to provide a smaller, yearly contribution, we did not want to miss the opportunity to be involved in the renovation of the clinic.”

The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders was opened in 1991 after the Junior League of Jackson raised $2 million to build the facility on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

The time has come for renovations that will improve the experiences of patients and families, said Dr. Anderson Collier, D. Jeanette Pullen Chair of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. “Our patients and families deserve a state-of-the-art facility to match the state-of-the-art treatment and care already being provided.”

The renovation fund started with a $1.5 million gift from Pat and Jim Coggin of Jackson. Other contributors include the Junior League of Jackson, the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation, Southern Mississippi Trading and Summit Plastics, Inc. The updates to the center are expected to cost a little more than $3 million. The décor of the center will blend with the connecting Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower, which opened Nov. 2, 2020.

The new clinic space will include 14 examination rooms, an increase from eight. The center’s infusion room, currently an open space for eight, will be enlarged to house 20 semi-private infusion bays. Each bay will have an infusion chair, guest chair, and electronics to give patients and their families more space, privacy and entertainment.

The Hanberry family experienced Maggie’s care at Children’s of Mississippi for four and a half years following her diagnosis with Stage 4 colon cancer a month shy of her 16th birthday.

“We saw first-hand how the incredible staff makes the most of the existing limited space and resources to provide world-class clinical care to the children of Mississippi,” said Phil Hanberry, “but the limitations are not insignificant. One need was highlighted by Maggie’s care. As a teenage patient, she wanted privacy during her long infusions. The staff would accommodate her when they could by placing her in a small exam room in the back where she would sleep on the exam table. We were thrilled when the new renovation plans included private infusion rooms for patients to rest in comfort while they are receiving life-preserving treatments.”

A home-schooled student who finished high school while a patient at Children’s of Mississippi, Maggie was an inspiration to friends, family and caregivers, Melissa said.

“Her faith, family and friends were at the heart of everything she did,” she said. “She also loved reading, writing, playing piano and keyboard with her church praise band at Temple Baptist Church, and all things Disney. … She was Julie Andrews’ biggest fan and used her Make-A-Wish wish as an opportunity to meet her in person.”

When Maggie and her family learned of her diagnosis of stage IV colorectal cancer with metastases to her liver and lungs, “we thought our world fell apart, and it did for a while. We were able to put the pieces back together by knowing we were not alone. We had the most amazing team of caregivers at Children’s of Mississippi to help us figure out each next step. We had other patients and their families who knew, as only fellow travelers can, what we were experiencing. And we had an incomparable community of supporters who prayed, donated, and shared their resources with us and others at the center.”

The Giving Grace Fund was started after Maggie received a gift from a girl named Grace, who gave her the contents of a giving jar, money she was saving to help others in need. She wanted Maggie to have $40 to help pay for her treatment.

“We wanted a fund that would grow that original $40 into much more,” Melissa said. “We started healing the day we noticed there were others in greater need, and we had the resources to join with others to help them. Due to donations first in Maggie’s honor and then her memory, we are now able to give this gift in hopes of inspiring others to match it.”

Collier, one of Maggie’s oncologists, said her experience at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Mississippi continues to shape patient care.

“Maggie’s desire for a more private infusion space has been in my mind since I was treating her,” Collier said. “She is one of the inspirations for the design of our new space. And I am so thankful to the Hanberrys.  They have been a tremendous support and encouragement to me personally and to the staff and patients with their continued involvement in our center. Words are not adequate to express my appreciation to them.”

The Hanberry family looks forward to seeing their matching gift help others.

“We want to make families more comfortable as they wait for day-long treatments and procedures to be completed, which will offer immediate and lasting relief to them – encouraging them where they need it the most.” Melissa said. “Most families look to the clinic for hope – for the providers and staff to give them a cure through existing treatment or novel research, more time with their child, better quality of life while in treatment and as they grow, and a sense of not walking the difficult road alone. We pray this gift can add to that hope and help it become a reality for present and future patients.”

To support the renovation and have your contribution matched by the Hanberry family’s generosity, visit the Center’s webpage for giving. Designate your contribution to the Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Facility and Patient Care Fund. For questions or to learn about naming opportunities, contact Suzanne Crell, major gifts officer, at (601) 815-8778 or screll@umc.edu.

By Annie Oeth/UMMC Public Affairs