CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Lilly Zienkewicz isn't your typical 5-year-old. She is busy collecting slippers to give to the kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital. She's doing it in honor of her best friend, Hannah Huckfeldt.
“I made up the idea,” Lilly said. “I think they will like it. Once they put them on they will want to sleep with them on.”
It's the sort of compassion that's already warming hearts and will soon warm little feet, too.
“How she continues to make Hannah's story inspire people and keep Hannah's memory alive, I so appreciate that beyond words,” said Shelly Huckfeldt, Hannah’s mom. “Her compassion, her courage and her insight are well beyond her years.”
Lilly and Hannah were neighbors since birth and best friends since they could walk.
“They would play fearlessly when things were great, but when Hannah wasn't feeling great Lilly would lie in bed with her and hold her hand,” Huckfeldt said. “Lilly was like Hannah’s mother hen, she just knew what she needed.”
Hannah died from cancer one year ago, but just a couple months ago it was Lilly who was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with a rare blood disorder.
“We found ourselves on the cancer hematology floor with all the other kids with illnesses just like Hannah,” Lori Zienkewicz said. “The kids all wore hospital-issued socks or their own socks that were slick on the slippery hallway floors.”
So other patients were quick to comment on Lilly's Hello Kitty slippers.
“When Lilly got home from the hospital she asked if we could go get slippers for her friends on the seventh floor in Hannah’s name,” Zienkewicz said.
She originally thought if she could get 100 pairs of slippers, her drive would be a success and Hannah would be proud of that. But with help from family, Facebook and school friends, Lilly has collected close to 1,600 pairs of slippers in her family's basement.
“Not until all are packaged are we going to take them to the hospital,” Lilly said.
Each pair is wrapped with love and a sticker that reads, “Lilly slippers for Hannah. Best friends 'til the end. Hannah in our hearts.”
Monday, April 23, is the one-year anniversary of Hannah’s passing and the plan is to deliver the slippers that afternoon to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and to make this slipper drive an annual event.
Hannah’s family has also launched a foundation in her name.