A call made between Big Bird actor Caroll Spinney and a young boy dying of cancer changed his life forever.
The man behind Big Bird says the most memorable interaction he’s had with a child was a call to a young boy dying of cancer.
Caroll Spinney recalled the conversation during a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit.
“I got a letter from a fan who said his little boy, who was 5 years old, his name was Joey, he was dying of cancer,” Spinney said. “And he was so ill, the little boy knew he was dying. So the man, in his letter, asked if I would call the little boy. He said the only thing that cheered him at all in his fading state was to see Big Bird on television.”
In the letter, the boy’s father asked “Big Bird” to tell Joey that he had been a good boy. Spinney found a phone and dialed the number, and says that Joey’s parents were with him when he answered the call.
“I had Big Bird say, ‘Hello! Hello Joey! It’s me, Big Bird!'” Spinney recalled. “So he said ‘Is it really you, Big Bird?’ ‘Yes, it is.’ I chatted a while with him, about ten minutes, and he said ‘I’m glad you’re my friend Big Bird.’ And I said ‘I’d better let you go now.’ He said ‘Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You’re my friend. You make me happy.'”
The short but incredibly meaningful conversation was one that hasn’t left Spinney’s mind since. He says it made him realize what a profound impact he and Big Bird had on children.
“I could see that what I say to children can be very important,” he wrote. “And [Joey’s father] said ‘We haven’t seen our little boy smile in MONTHS. He smiled, as he passed away. It was a gift to us. Thank you.'”
Spinney’s long career as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch has supplied many more amazing and touching stories. You can learn more about Spinney’s life in the new documentary, “I Am Big Bird,” which is in select theaters now.