Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney and the Heartbreaking Power of Friendship. 

by Craig Carilli

May 8, 2015
Image via

The man behind Big Bird for nearly 50 years, Caroll Spinney, took part in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit yesterday. When a Redditor asked him about his most meaningful experience with a child, he shared the story of Joey, a 5-year-old boy who was dying from cancer. Joey’s father had reached out to Spinney and told him how much his terminally ill son loved Big Bird and, if he could give him a call, it would mean the world to him. Big Bird made that call and here is the touching story he shared:

"I had Big Bird say, 'Hello! Hello Joey! It's me, Big Bird!'

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.’ And it turns out that his father and mother were sitting with him when the phone call came. And he was very, very ill that day. And they called the parents in, because they weren't sure how long he'd last.

And so his father wrote to me right away, and said, ‘Thank you, thank you’ — he hadn't seen him smile since October, and this was in March — and when the phone was hung up, he said, ‘Big Bird called me! He's my friend.’

And he closed his eyes. And he passed away.

And I could see that what I say to children can be very important.

And he 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.’”

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Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney and the Heartbreaking Power of Friendship.