INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Before the first break of day, Butler University's "Blue Mobile" is on the move.
The van transports the school's 65 pound mascot known as Blue III. He is also known as a bulldog named Trip.
Each year, the university makes a special trip to welcome a handful of prospective students across the nation. On October 22nd, Trip and his team delivered the first acceptance letter for the class of 2023 to North Central High School senior Tatum Parker.
Parker is a National Honors Society student, senior class vice president, and co-president of North Central's top mixed show choir.
"I heard the doorbell ring and I thought, 'Who could be at my door at 6:30 in the morning?'" says Parker, recalling the moment Trip showed up at her door. "I see Trip and his big cute self on the front porch, and I was like what is going on."
For Parker, it was more than her first acceptance letter. It was the realization of a day she thought may never come.
"When I was 6-years-old, so in July of 2006, I was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma a rare bone tumor in my right femur. I underwent a year of chemo treatments and major surgery. Then I was re-diagnosed a year later in 2008 with the same kind of cancer, but in my right lung."
Instead of attending the second grade, Parker went through another year of chemo and radiation.
"It was really difficult especially as a young kid missing out on childhood things. I remember being so upset because my brothers got to go to the gym or they got to go to the children’s museum and I didn’t get to do that because I was stuck in the hospital."
It was during that time that she received a gift from the Gabby Krause Foundation. It was a backpack full of games and toys.
Tatum recalls how much the bag meant to her, taking it wherever she went.
After finishing chemo the first time, she decided to give the same gift to other kids with pediatric cancer.
"We started Tatum’s Bags of Fun in August of 2008, and we’d give out these backpacks filled with 350 dollars’ worth of games, toys, kindle fires, gift cards you name it. We give them to every child diagnosed with cancer in Indiana. "
To date, she's given over 3500 backpacks.
A year a half ago, Tatum's Bags of Fun became the Tatum Parker Project. While the organization still gives out backpacks, they now also raise thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Now, Parker lives everyday with a new outlook, one that she took from the fight which once threatened to take her future.
"I try to live everyday like it’s my last, and I really go take it one day at a time. I don’t know where my future is headed, I don’t know what could happen next. You never know what’s waiting for you tomorrow, but I just keep pushing through and live every day in a positive way and just keep pushing."
While Parker hasn't decided where she will attend college, she says her giving will continue.
"My goal is to inspire people. I want young kids out there to look at me and think they can make a difference as well. No matter what your age or who you are, you can make a difference."