Long before the social media campaign #LightitupforLilly took off, Haltom Police Chief Cody Phillips was well aware of 4-year-old Lilly Armbruster’s struggles with cancer.
Phillips has know the Armbruster family of Grapevine for about 16 years and worked with Lilly’s grandmother, who was a dispatcher for the police and fire departments in Haltom City.
Last week, in a gesture of support for Lilly, Haltom City first responders, along with employees from AA Wrecker Services, shaved their heads. Lilly, who has been diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that affects her soft tissue, has lost her hair with the intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Phillips said you can’t help but be touched with what Lilly and her family have had to endure.
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“With all of the procedures that she has been through and everything her parents had to do, you can’t help but tear up — anything we could do to put a little dent in their pain, to let them smile a little longer and to let them know that we are there for them,” Phillips said.
Lilly and her family were escorted Nov. 28 from Grapevine to the Haltom City police department, where the hair shaving took place, Phillips said. That date also was a national day of giving and volunteering.
A Go Fund Me page was also established to help Lilly’s parents, Leigh Ann and Jeff Armbruster, with medical costs.
Lilly, who has received treatment for cancer most of her young life, loves Christmas lights and decorations, and her story has captivated people throughout the country to spread light and hope.
The Facebook page Team Lilbug was set up by her family, and it has gotten attention not only from families and businesses in North Texas but also in Denver and other cities. These new Facebook friends have decorated Christmas trees in honor of Lilly, and photos of the trees are continuously being posted on the page.
“The push on social media is extremely vital, not only to show support to her and her family, but to make more people aware of childhood diseases and the challenges the families face,” Phillips said. “Social media allows more people to be personally touched by a story when they know the people involved or someone that knows the people involved.”
Lilly’s aunt Lindy Pulliam said her family is overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers and friends alike.
“It has been a roller-coaster ride, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not been easy,” Pulliam said.
But Pulliam said she is touched and grateful for all of the support her family has gotten from people who don’t even know Lilly.