Written by Rachel Burchfield | Photographed by Joe Worthem
A cancer patient from Belmont lends expert decorating advice in the Tupelo St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway.
The petite brunette journalist stood on the red carpet at the recent Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Holding out an enormous microphone in her small hand, she asked members of the country supergroup Little Big Town “What’s your favorite food?”
“I’m kind of a pizza girl,” said Karen Fairchild, one of the singers of the quartet. “What’s your favorite food?”
The journalist, who was missing her two front teeth, sporting a blue flower temporary tattoo on her left cheek and wearing a dress fit for a princess, didn’t hesitate.
“Mine is brownies,” she said.
She went on to interview country music singer-songwriter Jake Owen, teach Keith Urban how to play rock, paper, scissors and flash her winning grin in photographs with the likes of Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and Thomas Rhett. The journalist is 6-year-old Londyn Perry, and, when she’s not interviewing celebrities about their favorite foods or what superpower they’d have, she’s fighting neuroblastoma at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Her journalist duties now complete, Londyn is moving on to her next assignment: interior decorator. Londyn, who is from Belmont and a rising second grader, was chosen to design the child’s bedroom in this year’s St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Tupelo. She’s already hard at work coming up with the design scheme, along with Room to Room president Lisa Hawkins, who is donating all of the items in the room to the cause.
“I can tell Londyn’s a great decorator,” Hawkins said. “We want it to look like she wants it to look.”
The room will feature Londyn’s favorite singer, JoJo Siwa, whom Londyn is excited to see in concert this September; her favorite color, purple; mermaids, unicorns, and a fancy chandelier.“We have to have bling-bling,” Hawkins said. “She’s a bling-bling girl.”
She’s also a very tough little girl. On Valentine’s Day 2018, the hearts of her adoring parents, Angie and Justin Perry, were broken when Londyn — who also has type 1 diabetes — was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a high-risk cancer that presented as a tumor behind her eye and also on her adrenal gland. In the months following, Londyn had her adrenal gland removed completely and has undergone chemotherapy and radiation for the tumor behind her eye. At the end of April, Angie said, they will go for a scan to check on the tumor’s progress. “I believe she will be cancer-free,” Angie said.
Since connecting with St. Jude last year, Londyn has become an ambassador for the hospital. In addition to appearing on the ACM awards red carpet and decorating a room for the Dream Home Giveaway, Londyn has had a tea party with former NFL defensive end and current “Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan in New York City, where she also shot a television commercial for St. Jude.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Londyn said. “It has been an adventure.”
Hawkins of Room to Room has worked as the co-designer for the child’s room in the dream home for a number of years.
“It is a wonderful experience to give back to the children and families of St. Jude through fundraising,” Hawkins said. “St. Jude does dream homes all across the nation, and I’ve been involved for as long as St. Jude has done the giveaway in Tupelo.”
A former nurse, Hawkins connects with the children she works with on a deep level, she said, often keeping up with them long after their turn as an interior decorator ends.
“It’s so much fun to be able to work with the children of St. Jude, to see them get excited and get to meet them and be friends with them,” Hawkins said. “Londyn, that’s my kind of girl.”
The fundraiser goal this year is $950,000. Hawkins said it was inspiring to see the Tupelo community come together to help the children of St. Jude. Most materials and services for the home are donated, so that the largest amount of money possible benefits the hospital. Tickets are $100 and will be available starting in early June. Tune in to WTVA 9 News and WLOV for additional updates. The giveaway for the winner of the dream home — including Londyn’s room — takes place Aug. 29.
“The person winning the home wins much more than just the home,” Hawkins said. “They get to give back to St. Jude. If you buy a ticket, the worst thing that can happen is that you donate to an amazing cause. You can’t put the value on the life of a child, but helping in some little way to find a cure for childhood cancer is very humbling and overwhelming and gives a little piece of hope for so many families.”
At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food because all a family should worry about is helping their child live — making fundraisers like this so critically important. Angie Perry said St. Jude thinks of everything a family with a sick child might need, from gas money to money for food and lodging.
“The real question is what has St. Jude not meant to our family?” Angie said. “We went from one day having a healthy child to having a child with a 40 percent survival rate. It’s a lot to take in overnight. You go into St. Jude feeling so alone, and everyone starts showing up — doctors, nurses, social workers — not only for the child, but for the parents, too, to talk and help us through. I don’t know what we would have done without St. Jude.”
Angie isn’t sure how her daughter was chosen to be the child’s room decorator, but she’s glad Londyn was picked.
“To be chosen means a lot to her, to go in and show her creative side. She loves to do crafts and activities and this is so much fun for her to explore. It makes us so happy — she’s been through so much and I’ve seen her so down, so weak and so sick. To see a smile on her face and to see her get excited about getting to do all of this warms our heart.”
Londyn’s father Justin said the family is forever grateful to St. Jude. He sees this as one more way to give back and spotlight Londyn’s high-energy, vivacious spirit.
“Her personality will definitely shine throughout the room,” Justin said.
For now, Londyn is just a kid who loves to jump on the trampoline and play with her little brother, Grayson. While she has thought about being a journalist or an interior decorator when she grows up, she’s now decided to opt for a career even closer to her heart.
“I want to be a nurse at St. Jude,” Londyn said.