Generosity from stranger helps family care for 7-year-old in her final months

A woman who raised $16,000 to help a 7-year-old and her family is awarded with NBC12's Acts of Kindness.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Sydney Hampton was a good mix of sweet and sassy.

The energetic 7-year-old was the princess in her family. Her smile was undeniable, and her grandmother, Tracy Branch, couldn’t say no, especially when Sydney made special dinner requests.

She loved meatloaf,” she said.

Branch says tragedy struck the family in September of 2021.

”We didn’t have any idea that she was sick. She bumped her head at school, and we noticed that she started to look in one direction,” said Branch.

Sydney was previously diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, and her family thought this may have been a complication of her diagnosis.

Her mother, Pamela Branch, took her to the hospital. Doctors found a massive tumor, and Sydney was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), a rare, fast-growing form of cancer located at the stem of the brain.

She was given 9 months to a year to live.

Kat McCay is the owner of Old Towne’s Alibi and Loco Kitty restaurants in Petersburg.

Sydney was brought to our attention by a family friend, and we want to do something to help her family. We basically just put a large plea out to the community, and we sold specialty cocktails, we gave up our profits for a few days, and we hosted a giant cornhole tournament,” said McCay.

The original goal was $5,000, but McCay says they raised $16,000 instead.

That money allowed Sydney’s mom, Pamela, to leave work and tend to her daughter full-time.

“I was very grateful because I didn’t know how I was going to be able to stay out of work and not have any income. So it was a blessing,” she said.

Sydney got a chance to be a kid. She visited Disney World twice, rode her favorite rides at Busch Gardens, enjoyed her grandmother’s meatloaf, and spent time with her little brother Emerson.

Sadly, Sydney passed away in June.

Prior to this, the Branch family had never met McCay.

For that, the family is eternally grateful and wanted to say thank you with the NBC12 “Acts of Kindness.”

NBC12 asked McCay why did she help this family.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” she said. It’s just what you do.”

She says with the family’s blessing, she is going to continue this mission in Sydney’s honor.

“We just completed a fundraiser - our second annual Sydney Strong Memorial Cornhole - earlier this month. We raised quite a bit of money for a 17-month-old out of Prince George who is battling pediatric cancer,” McCay said.

Mom is happy that Sydney’s name will live on while raising awareness about DIPG.

As for the $300 in cash and the $50 gift card to Mexico Restaurant, McCay says she has no plans on keeping it.

“We’re going to pay it forward to someone that needs it,” she said. “We’re going to bless someone with that gift.”

McCay gave Pamela and Tracy the gift of time, allowing them to create precious memories with their greatest gift of all – Sydney Hampton.