Parker Kress gives back to Children’s Hospital for his birthday

Hawkeye Headquarters

It’s more than a regular appointment for Parker Kress at the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

The Bettendorf teen filled his house with gifts for his birthday September 10, but the boxes of toys aren’t for him.

The now 17-year-old is giving back to a place that played a significant role in his young life.

Local 4 News has been following Parker’s journey in the last few years.

He was first admitted to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital in December of 2014 at the age of 13.

That was to battle Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of childhood bone cancer.

Later he returned when an infection in his leg that caused the amputation of his leg.

He was named an Iowa Hawkeyes Football Kid Captain and early this year when on the court as part of the Pleasant Valley High School sophomore basketball team.

Parker told Local 4 News outside the Children’s Hospital, after all the support he’s been given through the triumphs and adversities, he’s looking to pass that on to kids facing some of their hardest times.

Parker said he was already heading to the Children’s Hospital for a CT scan appointment he has every three months.

With it falling on his birthday he took it as inspiration to gift a little happiness to kids at the hospital.

But how much he gave is a whole lot more than even Parker imagined. 

Parker said, “There’s a bunch of stuff, I can’t even keep count of it all.”

It’s an early morning inside the home of Parker, with toy-filled boxes piled deep into their kitchen.

Parker’s mother Kristin Dumser said, “Couldn’t believe it. It’s kind of like Christmas in a way.”

This Saint Nick started with a small goal.

“Was hoping to bring a few toys up,” said Parker. “The next thing you know, it blows up, and here we are with 500 toys. It’s insane.”

Parker organized the toy drive in August with an Amazon wishlist, leading to weeks of constant deliveries to his address.

Monday, they were loaded into a different kind of sleigh. 

Parker said, “Here we are having to bring a Lowe’s truck just to fit it all.”

These toys are off to Iowa City with a powerful mission.

“I used to be here in the hospital a lot, and when I was here, it was always kinds of boring for me, kind of. As an older kid, there wasn’t much for me to do here,” said Parker after unloading the truck at the hospital.

Dumser said, “Parker’s known a lot of kids at the hospital, many who have passed away. When he was a patient, he knew how much it could brighten your day getting even the smallest of a gift.”

To make this delivery possible, there were a couple of towering elves by way of the Iowa Hawkeyes Men’s basketball team.
They’ve been by Parker’s side the last several years.

Iowa Hawkeyes Men’s Basketball player Nicholas Baer said, “Just his resilience. You know, somebody who’s had some setbacks and not the ideal situation and still finding a way to make the most out of it and you know, coming here on his birthday.”

“Their head coach Fran McCaffery, he’s the coolest dude I’ve ever met. He’s the nicest dude I’ve also ever met too,” said Parker.

He went on to say, “He and the team have been supporting us for years now. We went to Florida with them for Thanksgiving with them a few years ago, and when we were down there, they were so nice to us. They treated us like we were family and ever since then.”

Parker said often the most excellent present for these young patients is the chance to be a kid.

Parker said, “I’ve gotten a lot of stuff over the years from people, and I have way more than enough stuff because of the support people have shown me over the years, so I decided not to do something for me. To do something for these kids here because I’ve been in their shoes and I know what it’s like. I just want to try to brighten their days even if it’s just for an hour or something. Something to make their stay better.”

That can be the best medicine.

“It was really hard going through it. There’s a lot of sleepless nights. Even now, with scans every three months, I don’t sleep a couple nights beforehand so this was a nice, so this was a great distraction, but it was really hard, it was really hard on him. Our whole entire family really. At the same time, you see a lot of good, and this is one of those things that make it better,” said Dumser. 

Parker also dedicated this toy drive to Will Kohn by collecting Lego sets.

Will was a fellow patient at the Children’s Hospital who passed away in 2018.

Will’s father is also one of Parker’s teachers at PV.

Another present for Parker, the scan he was at the hospital for came back clear.

Parker also told Local 4 News he would like to continue this toy drive every year or every other year and watch it grow. 

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