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Operation Purple Eagle Plane lands at the FedEx St. Jude Classic

Hayes Brown with the FedEx delivery plane named in his honor.
Photo credit: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR

June 5, 2013

By Lynda Nance, Special to

MEMPHIS, Tenn.- The big smile across his face said it all-- mission Operation Purple Eagle Plane was a success.

On Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, eight-year-old Hayes Brown, who has battled a rare cancer of the kidneys twice in his young life, received a FedEx Cessna Caravan N981FE plane named in his honor.  Hayes is the second child of a FedEx employee who is also a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to have a plane named after them through Operation Purple Eagle Plane.

Hayes’ dad, Chris Brown, has worked at FedEx for 13 years in the FedEx Tech Connect division.  He and Hayes’ mother, Amy, are thrilled at the honor of having a plane named after their son.

“This is recognition for everything Hayes has been through,” Amy said. “FedEx and St. Jude are a part of our family. Both are part of the Memphis community and the way they work hand in hand in to help children who are sick is amazing.”

Hayes’ connection to St. Jude started in January 2010, when tests revealed a tumor on his left kidney. He was referred to St. Jude by his doctor, where tests confirmed that he had Wilms tumor.

Hayes underwent surgery to remove the tumor, as well as his left kidney. Once he recovered, Hayes underwent 13 rounds of chemotherapy, which he finished that June. He responded well to treatment and was able to start first grade on time in fall 2010.

But during a routine checkup at St. Jude in January 2011, a year after Hayes’ initial diagnosis, scans revealed the cancer had returned, this time to Hayes’ liver.

“We were shocked,” Amy said. “We didn’t expect the cancer to come back.”

Hayes’ continuing treatment included surgery to resect the tumor and eight rounds of chemotherapy.

At St. Jude, Hayes’ family found support and comfort. “The moment you become a St. Jude family, you’re completely taken care of,” Amy said. “We really believe that without St. Jude, Hayes wouldn’t be here with us today.”

Chris and Amy say their FedEx family lifted them up in tough times.

“My FedEx colleagues made it clear that I had their full support and that my only thoughts should be with my son,” remembered Chris. “From my senior executive down to my team, I received countless calls of encouragement and reminders that work would be fine without me.”

This unwavering support helped the family focus on Hayes and his treatment.   

“They’re family to us,” said Amy.

Hayes completed treatment more than a year ago, and today, he is cancer free. He likes playing with his older brother and their twin younger brothers. Hayes also loves baseball. His favorite position is pitcher, and even when he was sick and couldn't play, he still suited up in his uniform.

“He had a strength and determination,” said Amy. “We laugh that those are the things that got him through cancer twice.”

Hayes is a hero to his parents, and to FedEx, too. By dedicating a plane to Hayes, FedEx continues to demonstrate its commitment to all the children of St. Jude.

“The plane dedication is an unbelievable honor for my family,” said Chris. “St. Jude is obviously very dear to our family and is so much more than a hospital. Likewise, FedEx is much more than a company. It is an amazing collection of people who, on a daily basis, put someone else's interests before their own.”

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