Fort Worth

Fort Worth man with days left to live pushes to raise $1 million for at-risk children

Just remember the babies.

That’s all Happy Baggett wants.

Baggett, a well-known real estate developer and philanthropist, has terminal colon and liver cancer. And all he wants to do with his remaining days is to help at-risk children, particularly those served by Child Care Associates.

So he’s asking pretty much everyone he knows to donate as much as they can to the CCA, a group that serves at-risk babies and children up to 5 years old, and has millions of dollars in infrastructure, construction and remodeling needs.

“I want to get to $1 million as fast as I can,” he said. “It’s all for the babies.”

On Wednesday, the 67-year-old was honored with a North Texas Early Childhood Leadership Award during the Child Care Associates annual Early Childhood Investors lunch at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth.

“This is a man who is truly living what God would want us to all do,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said during the award presentation. “He’s called and, in his last days — and he doesn’t mind me saying that — he is giving back to this community.

“It’s an example that all of us should live by and learn from.”

Baggett has long preached the need for early education and for boosting the quality of early education classrooms and infrastructure.

Overall, $12 million — now dubbed the “Happy Fund” — is needed to help Child Care Associates, the largest child development organization in North Texas, improve nearly two dozen early childhood campuses and possibly build a new campus in Tarrant County.

“We all know our time will come,” said Kara Waddell, president and CEO of CCA, when asked about Baggett. “Rarely do you meet someone who wants to use that time to galvanize attention and giving for the cause he cares about.

“It really has been unique.”

On Wednesday, before the luncheon, Baggett talked about the diagnosis he received earlier this year.

He went to the doctor in April because food began tasting like metal.

Over the course of several weeks, he had multiple tests that eventually revealed cancer so far advanced that any treatment might only give him a couple more weeks to live.

The doctor told him to “do what you want to do ... and see who you want to see,” Baggett said.

At the time, the doctor said he had six months to live.

As of Wednesday, he said he had two weeks left.

He has lost 54 pounds and not eaten solid food for about five months, surviving on protein drinks.

Wednesday, he said, was the worst he’s ever felt.

But he was determined to do what he could to help raise money for the children who need help the most.

“We’ve got to start them out right,” he said. “We have the people who can make this happen.”

As for him, he simply had one response.

“I’ve had a great life,” he said with a smile. “I know where I’m going.”

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.