Tinnley Reese Harmon was a happy, healthy 1-and-a-half-year-old.
But, while on a family vacation in November 2017, the Harmons took Tinnley to the emergency room, where they ultimately discovered that she had acute myeloid leukemia, a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
Tinnley spent the next year in and out of the hospital until she died in October 2018.
A few months later, her aunt and many others who loved her created The Sparkle of Tinnley Organization, a nonprofit created in memory of Tinnley with the goal of spreading her light and spirit.
In honor of what would’ve been Tinnley’s 4th birthday in February, the organization is hosting its first community fundraiser, Spread the Sparkle, on Feb. 29.
“At the time, I thought it was going to be the hardest thing we went through in life,” Tinnley’s mother, Britany Harmon, said, regarding Tinnley’s diagnosis. “She was my everything.”
For the better part of a year, Harmon and her husband, Tim, took turns at the hospital with Tinnley or at home with Tinnley’s older sister Teagen, who was very close to her younger sister, as they are only 19 months apart.
Harmon still remembers Tinnley’s first hospital admission around Christmas time in 2017. “There was a lot of giving, and I remember feeling so grateful that people thought about us.”
As time went by, Harmon began to realize a lot less giving happens when the holidays have passed.
“It’s so easy to go about your normal life and not be impacted when you’re not there not living it,” she added. “I’ve lived it. And, I knew then that after all of this, I’m going to do whatever I can do to make people smile.”
Through 170 days in the hospital, 77 blood transfusions, three rounds of chemotherapy and a failed bone marrow transplant among a number of other procedures, Tinnley kept her smile and spirits high.
But the thing that Tinnley missed most while in the hospital was playing dress-up with Teagen, as doing so in the hospital with IV lines to work around was not easy.
“When Tinnley got to dress up and have fun and be a normal 2-year-old, she could forget she was sick and she got to be whatever costume she put on,” Harmon said.
It was then that Harmon realized she wanted to give that feeling to as many sick kids as she could.
Because of Tinnley’s love for dress-up, one of the organization’s main goals is the share that with the kids who need it the most by creating costumes that are comfortable, washable and fully accessible for a kid who has to spend the majority of their time in the hospital, Harmon said.
Soon, they hope to travel to hospitals with a mobile playscape, giving kids a pop-up play experience complete with costumes — “those little things that make life feel just a little bit normal,” Harmon added.
In the meantime, the organization works to spread the sparkle by giving children a costume and unicorn-themed goodie bags, as unicorns were Tinnley’s favorite.
Spread the Sparkle
“I’m going to do whatever I can to keep her name alive, keep her memory alive (and) raise awareness for childhood cancer,” Harmon said. “We’re such a new organization and the people close to us know about us, but I wanted to bring that out to our larger community (with this event).”
The event is expected to include a cornhole tournament, arts and crafts drive for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, a chance to join the bone marrow registry on-site through Be the Match, along with a number of booths for local organizations also helping support families impacted by children’s cancer, such as the Michael Hoefflin Foundation.
In addition, children can get their faces painted, take photos in a photo booth, meet characters, do some arts and crafts and play mini-cornhole in the family zone.
Spread the Sparkle is scheduled noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, at Wolf Creek Brewery, located at 25108 Rye Canyon Loop in Valencia.
For more information, visit thesparkleoftinnley.org or call 661-210-3181.