Balloons sent to heaven for ‘Ms. Toots’ on her 2nd birthday

Arie's parents, Kim and William, follow the path of dozens of balloons released in Arie's memory on her second birthday.

Arie’s parents, Kim and William, follow the path of dozens of balloons released in Arie’s memory on her second birthday.

“Ms. Toots” would have smiled and blown kisses to everybody who came to honor her on her second birthday Wednesday.

Arie Baugh lost her fight with kidney cancer in July, two months shy of turning 2 years old.

Arie’s mom and dad decided to mark her birthday by inviting family and friends to release helium-filled balloons from the Butterfly Garden of Hope outside of Syracuse, N.Y.

Dozens of balloons head skyward in memory of Arie Baugh on her second birthday.

Dozens of balloons head skyward in memory of Arie Baugh on her second birthday.

In just 22 months, much of it spent undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments, Arie melted a lot of hearts. She also picked up the nickname of Ms. Toots.

Ms. Toots knew how to say good-bye by curling up her tiny fist and blowing kisses.

She loved it when anyone blew bubbles, so yes, there were bubbles as well as balloons at the gathering on a beautiful evening along the east shore of Onondaga Lake.

A friend said a short prayer and on the count of 1-2-3, everyone said Arie’s name and let go of their green and white balloons. There were some pink ones as well — Arie’s favorite color.

Smiles and laughter outnumbered tears as the balloons rose and drifted with the wind heading east. All eyes were skyward for quite some time.

On what I can only imagine was a very tough day for Arie’s mom and dad, they held up well. William said he’s doing better. Kim said the morning was tough, and I suspect the night wasn’t much easier. But it was clear they both took comfort in the company of loved ones who share their loss.

"Ms. Toots" made everyone around her smile, including me.

“Ms. Toots” made everyone around her smile, including me.

I wish I had spent more time with Arie during her stays at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Other than her blowing kisses good-bye each visit, what I remember most is one particular day last winter in the playroom.

It was in the weeks leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser for pediatric cancer research (Arie was my honoree this year). Kim and I were talking while Arie played with a toy nearby.

I said something to Kim about shaving my head, and Arie began to rub her own head, which was bald from chemotherapy. I was stunned by how smart this little girl was.

Arie was feeling well enough to attend the Syracuse St. Baldrick’s event in March. Photojournalist Michelle Gabel took a beautiful photo of Arie watching me get my head shaved. The image captures Arie’s reaction, and it is priceless.

Arie was well enough to attend the S. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser in Syracuse March 30.

Arie was well enough to attend the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Syracuse March 30.

Arie held up very well in a crowded, noisy Irish pub for a good couple of hours. Much of it she spent on her dad’s broad shoulders, so she had the best seat in the house.

I can find some solace that Arie’s presence at the event served some greater purpose — that those in attendance may have been moved by her strength, or by the obvious love of her family and friends, who came out in force that day.

They did so again Wednesday for Arie’s second birthday. In a Facebook post to start the day, Kim used that otherwise pleasant word that no parent of a child with cancer ever wants to use — angel.

Kim with "Ms. Toots" in the hospital last winter.

Kim with “Ms. Toots” in the hospital last winter.

“On 9/3/12 @9:01pm I gave birth to a 2 lb 14 oz miracle baby. In 22 months of life she beat up prematurity, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy & clear cell carcinoma of the kidney (cancer). Arie had the biggest brightest smile since birth. … Our family & faith became stronger. She beat many odds but on July 8 she became our angel. I love u baby, thanks for protecting us.”

 

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About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in cancer, Children, children's hospital, family, Irish Investigations, Volunteering and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Balloons sent to heaven for ‘Ms. Toots’ on her 2nd birthday

  1. ermigal says:

    This was a very moving story about Arie, thank you for writing it, Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An angel named Ms. Toots. God bless her and her family. She is beautiful Jim, thank you for sharing her with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ksbeth says:

    hugs to ms. toots, and all who were loved and touched by her presence in her lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LaToya says:

    My condolences to you Kim. Wish I had met her. She looks just you 🙂 May The Lord remain a constant anchor of strength for you and family.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. markbialczak says:

    My condolences to Kim and William. Thank you for the beautiful post, Jim. I was fortunate enough to meet “Ms. Toots,” the gorgeous and brave Arie, at the St. Baldricks event of which you write here. Sitting on William’s shoulders, she smiled at me, and my world was better that very moment.

    Like

  6. A beautiful story, Jim. A heart wrenching occasion for any parent. I’m glad they found a way to honor her on her second birthday.

    Like

  7. reocochran says:

    This post touched my heart, Jim. I went to your new blog and couldn’t seem to find a follow button. Won’t delete until I can follow your new direction. Take care. Smiles, Robin

    Like

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