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Allen Wallace photos.

When Zoe Tipping was fighting for her life, the Child Life program staff at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia was there to help her and her family through an incredibly difficult time. Zoe won her battle, and now she and her family and schoolmates are helping kids win theirs.

Zoe, who went through chemotherapy at the age of three after a Wilm’s tumor was discovered on her kidney, is now nine years old and a third grader at Ben Lippen Schools. For her birthday, as they have each of the last five years, she and her family chose to celebrate by giving gifts to the kids now being treated at Prisma Health. Her classmates have helped in the past, but this year, Team Tipping grew bigger than ever.

"This is the first year the whole school got involved," said Courtney Tipping, Zoe’s mom.

The Child Life program helps children and their families cope with health care experiences, and when the Tippings asked what gifts would help most, the staff suggested Play-Doh and Subway gift cards. The dough is a favorite of kids, as it has been for generations, but in a hospital setting cannot be reused as it might be elsewhere. With a 24-hour Subway in the children’s hospital, the gift cards provide welcome snacks for parents staying with their kids.

With Ben Lippen celebrating homecoming, the drive for dough and dollars (for gift cards) became part of Spirit Week, and students from elementary school through high school stepped forward to help.

Friday night, the results were revealed: 4,428 tubs of Play-Doh and more than $2,000 in gift cards for meals, and a reminder for everyone at the homecoming football game of the reason for the drive.

Nine families, including the Tippings, served as honorary captains for the game, joining the football players at midfield for the coin toss. All included Miracle Kids, as past or present patients at the children’s hospital are known. All have experienced the kind of treatment Courtney Tipping describes.

“Children’s Hospital and the physicians, nurses and caregivers mean so much to us,” Tipping said in a previous interview for the hospital’s website. “We had never felt the kind of family we had at Children’s Hospital. They have truly become like family to us.”

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