Boy who sparked citywide food drive succumbs to cancer

Trevor Sims, the 11-year-old boy whose desire to help the homeless inspired many in Baton Rouge and sparked a local food drive, died early Wednesday.

Judi Davis, who oversees the cancer ministry at Healing Place Church, confirmed Sims, who had recently entered hospice care, died at 4 a.m.

Sims was diagnosed with Stage 4 embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma five years ago, a cancer that causes tumors in soft tissue.

The first tumor appeared behind his nasal cavities and left cheek and extended into the back of his throat and base of his brain.

Eleven months of chemotherapy and six months of radiation treatments sent it into remission, but it reappeared along Trevor’s spine.

Treatment achieved remission again, but the tumors returned in his lungs and throat, making breathing and swallowing difficult.

When doctors diagnosed his cancer as terminal, Trevor’s mother, Allison, and staff at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge asked him for things he wanted to do before he died.

One of his answers was to feed the homeless.

“At one point, my mom, she couldn’t work because she had to watch me because I had cancer, and we didn’t have no food because we couldn’t afford any,” Trevor said in August.

“So, I thought it was so bad for us that nobody should have to be hungry.”

Jeanne McCollister McNeil learned of that wish when Trevor appeared at a Healing Place Church worship service on July 28, and she organized a citywide donation drive for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Named “Trevor’s Wish,” the food drive, originally scheduled for Sept. 1-7, has continued because of the interest he inspired, said Charlene Guarisco Montelaro, president of development and philanthropy at Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

“It’s incredible,” Montelaro said. “This child has touched everybody’s hearts.”

As of Oct. 16, she said the drive raised 34,798 pounds of food and $48,391 in monetary donations, a figure that does not include $16,000 raised recently by Central schools.

Including the coming donation from Central, Montelaro said the effort has raised the equivalent of 350,953 meals.

Montelaro said there have been local food drives that raised larger amounts, but this one was unique.

“It was really more like a movement,” Montelaro said. “His spirit captured so many people’s hearts. For this little boy to have this simple wish of feeding the hungry, everybody wanted to participate.

“We had subdivisions getting bags from grocery stores wanting to participate.”

Montelaro said the “Trevor’s Wish” drive produced donations from out-of-state thanks to his story being told on social media. Select Medical, a Pennsylvania chain of specialty hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, had 16 events that raised donations for local food banks in 12 states.

She compares it with the biblical account of the small boy whose lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish was used by Jesus to feed 5,000.

“He had this little, simple wish to feed people because he had experienced it,” she said. “Oh, my gosh: Everybody who heard of his story wanted to help make his dream come true in his last days.

“It really wasn’t like a typical food drive.”

Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Healing Place Church, 19202 Highland Road, until the funeral service at 11 a.m. Ourso Funeral Home of Gonzales is in charge of arrangements.

He will be buried at Roselawn Cemetery, 4045 North St.