Jim Bailey was an avid outdoorsman. He worked for the forest service his entire career and embraced teaching people about the outdoors.
He also had a special place in his heart for children and families, oftentimes quietly helping to support programs to benefit both.
When Bailey was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal/stomach cancer in 2016, the television commercials for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital struck a deep cord with him.
“I remember him saying, ‘Those kids deserve the chance to live a life like I’ve had,’” recalls Jane Howell, a longtime friend of Bailey.
A fitting comment, being that St. Jude founder Danny Thomas once said, “No child should die in the dawn of life.”
A gift for children and families
Bailey’s cancer eventually metastasized, and he passed away on Dec. 31, 2016. Friends recounted times spent outside with Jim and suggested that memorials might go to national parks, trails and maintenance funds or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. But in Howell’s mind, those groups already had a good amount of support.
During this same time, the final touches were being placed on the UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center in Steamboat Springs.
“Jim received his treatment in the infusion center in the Medical Office Building while the new center was under construction,” said Howell. “It was a cozy space, to say the least, but Jim was so well cared for there. He had a great deal of trust in Dr. (Allen) Cohn’s expertise, and Jim’s primary care physician, Dr. Kevin Borgerding, stayed very involved with his care. And the infusion nurses – they get it.”
Bailey’s passing, coupled with the new cancer center opening in February 2017 and his passion for helping children and families, led Howell, with the support of Bailey’s family, to designate memorials toward the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation with the intent of purchasing activities for children receiving treatment at the cancer center and those who might be accompanying a family member receiving treatment.
“In difficult times, we tend to become unregulated, and fear and anxiety can creep in,” said Sara Ross, a licensed clinical social worker and counselor at the Jan Bishop Cancer Center. “Both children and adults need a way to calm their brains. We’re now able to offer them something.”
In Bailey’s memory, a cart now rolls between infusion bays and patient rooms, stocked with toys, mind games, coloring activities and conversation starters.
“In purchasing items for the cart, we selected a few items that encourage people to talk,” said Ross. “Some people say, ‘We’re not going to talk about it because it’s scary.’ But the more we talk about things, the less scary they can be. Kids often express their thoughts through play, so to be able to have toys and things that help them work through their emotions is really key.”
Two days in a row
That proved to be true for nine-year-old Alexander Velardo. His mom, Alexis Hanes, has been receiving cancer treatment since April 2018 at the Jan Bishop Cancer Center. There, she’s under the care of Dr. Cohn; she also receives care from Dr. Christopher Lieu at UCHealth Cancer Care – Anschutz Medical Campus – University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Velardo initially came with Hanes, but had a difficult time. Then Hanes found out about the activity cart.
“Alexander came with me yesterday,” she said, as did her father. “Yesterday went well enough that he wanted to come back with me today. He loves playing with the magnetic tiles.”
“I made a hospital for animals,” said Velardo.
“If one child or patient benefits from it (the cart), then we know it was the right thing to do in Jim’s memory,” said Howell.