PARENTS

Caroll Spinney, The Man Behind 'Big Bird,' Tells Devastating Story Of Comforting A Dying Boy

05/07/2015 05:49 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 12:59 EDT

Caroll Spinney has connected with many generations of kids while playing Big Bird on "Sesame Street."

And there is one child he will never forget.

The puppeteer and voice actor is the subject of a documentary titled "I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story," which is now available on iTunes.

Spinney took part in an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit Thursday and told stories of his career, and the lives he's touched along the way.

One Redditor asked him to relate a meaningful interaction he had with a kid. So he told the story of Joey, a five-year-old who was dying of cancer.

Joey's father wrote Spinney a letter saying that watching Big Bird on TV was the only thing that gave his son joy while living with a terminal illness.

He asked whether Spinney could give the boy a call.

Spinney didn't. Big Bird did.

This is how their conversation went down:

"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.'"

You can find the rest of Spinney's AMA session right here.

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