LAWTON, OK (RNN Texoma) - A Lawton teen loved nothing more than to help others, even while she dealt with her own illness.
Although Jaden Austin passed away from cancer a few years ago, her legacy lives on in the the smiling faces of the children she continues to bless. Over the past four years, Team Jaden’s Christmas Toy Giveaway has helped hundreds of families in the community.
“But not only are we doing what she would have wanted us to do, but she also told us that was one promise she wanted us to make, was that we keep her foundation going and we keep helping others," said Mary Austin, Jaden Austin’s mother. "And also to maintain our strength for each other, for our families, and to pretty much get everybody through this. So that’s what we did, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to continue doing it for as long as we can.”
Jaden’s parents say she was always helping others, even hosting blood drives and fundraisers to help other kids with cancer. She battled cancer from age 12 to 15. Her father said she was known for her positive attitude.
“We used to say while she was here, she was one that battled cancer with a smile on her face," said Marcel Austin, Jaden Austin’s father. "She had her moments, but she knew that she was going to win it. She kept a smile on her face. And even though she’s not here, we still consider that she beat cancer. It was just time for her to go back home.”
To honor Jaden’s giving spirit, the Austins and their team of elves personally deliver gifts to families in Lawton and surrounding communities.
“We have really good helpers," said Mary Austin. "We are not just the face of Team Jaden. We have a big following. We have a lot of people who step in and help us work countless hours to get this done, to get any of our fundraisers done, any of our toy drives, things that we do for the community. We have a lot of people who step up to help us accomplish that.”
“It’s an honor and a pleasure to be a part of Team Jaden," said Liz Ware, a family friend of the Austins. "I look forward every Christmastime when I get the call of Santa’s elves, Jaden’s elves, really. We all got to get busy. We spent countless hours planning, picking up toys for delivery, organizing them by gender, age group. A lot of time and planning goes into it.”
Every year, the giving grows.
“This year we’ve already surpassed what we gave last year for the Team Jaden Christmas Toy Giveaway," said Mary Austin. “Last year, we helped 271 kids and a total of 101 families... It only takes one act of kindness to change a child’s life and impact a whole family.”
The Austins are still in need of gifts for teens, such as ear buds and gift cards. If you would like to donate, message Mary or Marcel on their Facebook page, In Loving Memory of Jaden Austin.