Danny Cavett doesn't like to watch people travel rough roads alone.
Jaycee Jo Elliott is only 28 but has undergone about 30 heart-related surgeries and procedures. That number includes eight heart surgeries at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center where Cavett, 64, has served as a chaplain since 1977.
“I've got to tell you this, but I'm going to cry,” said Joanie Goss, Elliott's mother. “Before every single surgery Jaycee has had there at Children's, he comes in and prays with us. And not just then, but we also knew that he was praying for her all the time.
“He always comes and checks on us. If they come out during surgery and say, ‘We have found a problem,' he has stopped right there and prayed with us.”
Cavett's official title is director of pastoral care at OU Medical System. But most people shorten that to “friend.”
Took a pay cut
Early on, Cavett served as a youth pastor in Oklahoma City. Then he went to Shattuck, in western Oklahoma, as a pastor. While in that community, Cavett also served as a substitute teacher at the public schools.
But then he was offered and took a pay cut to accept the chaplain's position at Children's.
“I knew that's where God wanted me because the whole thing then started rolling along,” Cavett said. “This was a place where we could make a real impact on the kids, on their learning and on their character.
“A kid can make an impact in your life and you hope you can make an impact on their life.”
Going to camp
In addition to being chaplain, Cavett is the founder, namesake and director of Camp Cavett, which he created in 1997 for chronically ill children. Overall, there are about a half-dozen camps now, he said.
Camp Cavett, held each July at Lake Texoma, is the largest with about 180 children attending.
More than 350 children battling life-threatening and chronic illnesses annually attend the Cavett Kids camps. The majority of the patients are based out of OU Medical Center and come from all areas of the state, but the camps also have patients from Texas and Arkansas.
Elliott once went to the camps as a participant and later became a camp counselor.
“He takes the time for those camps because he loves people,” Goss said, “the way God wants us to love people, I think.
“Danny's been through a lot with us, and he's just a rock.”