These days, life is pretty sweet for Lilly Bumpus, an 8-year-old who recently shattered a local Girl Scout Cookie sale record. But it wasn't always that way.
When the California resident was born with a rare form of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma in 2012, doctors told her family it would be a miracle if she survived treatment, let alone beat cancer. But Bumpus has always been a fighter and she made it through 14 rounds of adult-strength chemotherapy and a surgery that removed a portion of her chest wall, all before her first birthday.
Her mother, Trish Bauer, didn't know it at the time, but that surgery would eventually lead Bumpus to the Girl Scouts.
"Because of the opening in her chest wall that leaves her heart exposed, she isn’t allowed to do any type of physical activities or sports. Lilly tried cheer, dance and swim lessons and all of it put her in the hospital," Bauer told TODAY Food. "So last resort me being desperate to find anything for my daughter to do with other kids to simply feel included and to be a kid, I signed her up for Girl Scouts."
When Bumpus was five, her mother took her to her first Girl Scouts meeting and she was instantly intrigued when the troop started talking about selling cookies. It was the last week of the selling season, but Bumpus was still determined to get involved.
"Lilly sat and listened to all the girls say how excited they were for the gel pens and tie dye kits they had earned for boxes sold and she asked if she could see the paper with the prizes on it. She turned it over and saw on the bottom it said if she sold 5,000 boxes of cookies she would go to Greece and Rome. She told me 'I’m doing that and going there mom,'" she said.
By the next day, the 5-year-old had sold over 2,000 boxes and by the end of the week she sold over 5,000 boxes to earn her trip. And so her cookie empire began.
Flash forward several years and Bumpus found herself trying to sell cookies during a global pandemic this year. Since she wasn't able to set up booths in public places or walk door to door to drum up sales, the 8-year-old relied on her strong social media following to spread the word.
Over the years, Bumpus has created a pretty special community on her Facebook page through her Team Lilly Foundation. Along with her family and supporters, the 8-year-old has spent years supporting other children dealing with cancer. She's delivered holiday care packages, thrown surprise birthday takeovers and cancer-free celebrations, and raised money for the funerals of children who lost their battle with cancer. And she's pretty inspired to use her platform as a Girl Scout to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.
To kick off cookie season, the 8-year-old wrote a letter explaining how anyone who bought cookies from her would be supporting a great cause and helping her achieve her dreams. She dropped it off at her local city hall, in laundromats, car washes and other public spots where people were likely to see it.
"My letter explains that when someone donates a $5 box through my cookie sales that it will go to a kid fighting cancer feeling really alone or to someone that is homeless," she said.
Soon, the orders started rolling in and people from across the country and from other countries, and by the end of the season, Bumpus had sold 32,484 boxes of cookies. Part of that figure includes 5,200 donated boxes of cookies, which Bumpus plans to bring to local hospitals.
The 8-year-old's troop has decided that a majority of the proceeds raised will go towards purchasing much-needed supplies to help with cancer research and feeding the homeless.
This impressive little girl is part of a one-of-a-kind Girl Scout troop that's full of cancer survivors and girls who are fighting cancer.
"Our girls support each other on scan days, good days and bad and celebrate the achievements money can’t buy like health and love each and everyday. They show me that anything is possible with love," Bauer said.
After setting a local record for selling cookies, Bumpus has even caught the attention of the international Girl Scouts organization.
“We are so proud of Lilly Bumpus’s amazing cookie accomplishments and her philanthropic efforts, as we are of all the Girl Scout Cookie entrepreneurs who found safe and innovative ways to sell during the pandemic,” Kelly Parisi, VP of communications at GSUSA, told TODAY. “Lilly and all of our cookie bosses embody what the Girl Scout Cookie Program is all about.”
So, what's next for Bumpus? On April 9, she will be hosting a virtual meeting on her Facebook page and will be sharing information on how to get a pen pal at your local hospital. Looking back on all her daughter has accomplished in just eight short years, Bauer can't help but feel proud.
"Over the years of watching Lilly fight cancer then now to fighting side effects from treatment I’ve seen many people come and go. But cookies this season had a way of showing the world that anything is possible when you make it possible. That maybe just maybe together we can make a difference. And I believe one cookie box at a time the world thinks so too."