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Catherine’s Special Initiation

Catherine Williams could light up a room with her infectious smile, boundless energy, and natural leadership ability. She was an exceptional student, played varsity volleyball, and was a member of the Delta Upsilon Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at University of Georgia – even though she passed away shortly after graduating from high school.

During her junior year at North Atlanta High School, Catherine began to suffer knee pain. Since she was a volleyball player, her parents thought it was a sports-related issue. As the pain increased, Catherine tried physical therapy which didn’t help. She soon had an MRI that revealed a tumor on her left knee.

“Looking back, the tumor had been there a while,” Catherine’s mother, Anne, recalled. “By the time we found out she had osteosarcoma, the cancer was metastatic and had moved to her lungs.”

Catherine Williams

This was not Anne’s first brush with cancer. When she was pregnant with Catherine, her sister passed away after a battle with breast cancer. In fact, Catherine was named after the aunt she never met.

After chemotherapy, Catherine had surgery to remove the tumor and reconstruct her knee. The reconstruction never worked, however, and doctors were later forced to amputate her leg. That surgery was followed by more chemotherapy and radiation, which also proved to be ineffective. In March of 2020, Catherine was sent home without treatment options as the pandemic started to spread across the country.

“COVID was somewhat of an equalizer for Catherine,” Anne said. “All of her friends were out having fun and she couldn’t. But when quarantines hit, everyone had to stay at home.”

While she was at home, a hospice nurse discovered that Catherine hoped to join a sorority when she got to UGA that fall. Since both Anne and her mother had been Kappas in college, the nurse reached out to the University of Georgia chapter and got a welcome response.

“We have some members of our sorority who know Catherine’s family and had been following her treatment,” said Lilia Sullivan, the Philanthropy Chairman of Georgia’s Kappa chapter. “When we got the call, we contacted Kappa headquarters immediately and got their support. This unfortunate situation became a great way for the community to come together for Catherine.”

Lilia and Saville Sullivan

Lilia knows about the need for support for children with cancer. When she was sixteen, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Shockingly, three weeks later, her older sister, Saville, was diagnosed with a different type of brain tumor! They went through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery together. Both sisters survived and are thriving today.

“My parents say that period in our lives was like an out-of-body experience,” Lilia recalled. “Everything we were going through was completely draining emotionally, physically, and mentally. I’m not sure how we would have done it without our faith and our family, friends, and neighbors in Albany.”

When the call went out about Catherine, local Kappas came to the William’s house, and members from all over the country attended on a Zoom connection as Catherine was initiated.

“It was a sweet and special afternoon,” said Anne. “It was also the last time Catherine was able to come downstairs.”

Catherine “Cappie” Williams died peacefully at home on June 2, 2020, after a courageous 13-month battle with osteosarcoma. She was 18 years old.

Although she was initiated into the sorority, she was unable to participate in the academic and social life that the rest of the Kappas enjoy. As Philanthropy Chairman, Lilia is determined to help build a legacy for Catherine in Athens – even though she never attended a class. To do this, the Kappa chapter is planning a run in her memory. The event is called “5k for Kappie” and will start at the Kappa house and finish at one of their favorite restaurants, Saucehouse Barbecue. The 5k will be held on Sunday, September 12, and proceeds will benefit CURE Childhood Cancer. Together, the University of Georgia chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma is proving that sisterhood knows no bounds.

If you would like to register for the 5K for Kappy, please click here.

Running with Hannah

As a soccer and tennis player, 14-year-old Hannah Hazen is athletic and used to pushing her body on the playing field. When she started complaining about breathing difficulties, her parents assumed it was due to typical exertion. But when she experienced the same issue on a day she didn’t play a sport, they became concerned.

“We went to our pediatrician and then to the hospital for an x-ray,” Hannah’s father, Brian, said. “We thought we would hear something in a day or two, but the hospital called two hours later and told us to pack a bag and come back.”

The x-ray revealed a mass in Hannah’s chest near her trachea. She was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit because the doctors worried the tumor might shift and cut off her airway. After a biopsy she was moved to the pediatric oncology floor where Hannah was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“In those first 48 hours as Hannah was being diagnosed, we were overwhelmed and exhausted,” Brian said. “Then late one evening, the nurse walked in with a delicious dinner provided by CURE. While it sounds so simple, it was one less thing for us to worry about and allowed us to remain by Hannah’s side.”

The standard treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is decades old. But research is finally starting to reach the bedside, and Hannah’s oncologist, Dr. Bergsagel, recommended she enroll in a clinical trial to add a new drug called brentuximab vedotin to her treatment. This immunotherapy drug has been used to treat adults for years and has only recently been available to children.

“The treatment will last for six months instead of four,” said Brian. “But the new drug reduces the toxicity of the chemo, so Hannah will have fewer long-term side effects. Even with the extra two months, it really made sense for us.”

Hannah is on round three of twelve and is doing great so far. She has experienced relatively mild side effects such as bone and nerve pain. The whole family has adjusted to life in treatment and has felt fantastic support from their Dunwoody community. When the virtual Lauren’s Run and CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic rolled around, their neighborhood really stepped up. They formed a team in honor of Hannah and started inviting people to join and give.  Ironically, Brian used to work for NCR, which was Lauren’s Run presenting sponsor several years ago.

“I had run the race two or three times in the past,” Brian said. “I knew it was for a good cause back then, but I never knew the whole of it until cancer hit home.”

Friends originally set a goal for Team Hannah of $2500. But people gave enthusiastically and generously, and by race day, Team Hannah had raised more than $13,000! On May 2, the day of the virtual Lauren’s Run and CURE Picnic, about 75 people gathered in the Hazen’s front yard to run and walk together on a 5k route that friends mapped out. Hannah hasn’t been able to play soccer or tennis, but she had a ball running the 5k with so many people cheering her on.

“Hannah’s a great all-around kid,” said Brian. “It is heartwarming and a little overwhelming to have all of these people come out and support our girl. Our community has been amazing.”

All told, more than 600 people participated in the virtual Lauren’s Run and CURE Picnic. Groups gathered all over Atlanta, as well as in Texas, Ohio, Colorado, and even South Africa. Most importantly, Lauren’s Run and the CURE Picnic raised more than $260,000 for childhood cancer research, so kids like Hannah can receive safe and effective treatments which will allow them to thrive!

Because of Joseph

Joseph Lee was known for being tenacious and funny. Even when circumstances in his life seemed to conspire against him, he always maintained hope, faith, and his sense of humor.

When he was twelve years old, a bump on his forearm caused Joseph’s parents to seek medical attention. Initially, his doctor thought it was a cyst of some kind. But his parents sought a second opinion which later revealed a diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma – a type of cancer that affects muscle tissue.

Initially, his doctors recommended surgery to amputate Joseph’s arm. But surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation worked to eliminate the tumor. Joseph celebrated clean scans for several years. He also celebrated life in special ways.

“Joseph was my only sibling, and we were very close,” said his sister, Rachel. “During his cancer journey, he taught me to be grateful for life’s little things. He had such a kind spirit and loved to encourage others because of the unique perspective cancer gave him.”

Joseph inspired others with his motto, “keep fighting… and living – as normally as you possibly can.” After treatment ended, Joseph demonstrated his tenacity on the football field as a running back. He worked hard to graduate high school and was accepted into the University of Georgia. But cancer had other plans. Joseph’s cancer returned and spread to the lymph nodes of his left arm.

After he beat cancer again, Joseph went on to study criminology at UGA, walk on the football team, and later work in the Cobb County Police Department. In 2018, he was working as a government contractor in Kuwait when his cancer came back again and forced him to return home.

“He declined rapidly when he got home,” Rachel recalled. “One day he was having trouble speaking but called my name clearly as I was leaving his room. When I turned around, he held up praying hands and bowed his head as a gesture of thanks. That made me feel a special peace, and I knew he felt peaceful, too.”

Joseph Lee passed away on May 9, 2018, at the age of 29. His family has been involved with CURE in many ways over the years, but Rachel went a step further in 2020 by joining the Young Professional Leadership Council. The YPLC is a group of dynamic and emerging leaders in the Atlanta community with a passion for and commitment to advancing CURE’s mission. Rachel hopes to combine her experience as a Digital Transformation Privacy Program Manager at Chick-fil-A and her passion for fighting childhood cancer to help provide better options to children with cancer.

“I am impressed with the work CURE has done to achieve better treatments for kids,” she said. “But there is a long way to go, and I hope together we can raise money for research that will make a difference.”

To further that effort, the YPLC is hosting the 5th annual Spring Fever on June 12 at Guardian Works at Echo Street West. This event will feature live music, delicious food, unforgettable cocktails, and an incredible silent auction. In the past four years, Spring Fever has raised $400,000 to assist families in their battle with pediatric cancer as well as support critical research. You can learn more about Spring Fever by clicking the image below or visiting curespringfever.org.

An Unexpected Community

How one family found support at Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic.

Last year, Maddox and his family found an unexpected community at Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic. Maddox was only a few months into his treatment for leukemia when race day came. Thinking it was just a 5k that benefited CURE, they soon learned the day held a lot more.

“We were fairly new in the childhood cancer world at the time,” Maddox’s mother, Nour, said. “In fact, he was in the hardest part of treatment in late April. But we thought it would be fun to spend the day together as a family and we knew there would be other cancer families there, so we signed up. What we found was both beautiful and impactful.”

Maddox’s cancer journey started with a lump under his jawline. After months of labs, tests, and finally a biopsy, his family heard the dreaded words, “your child has cancer.” In November of 2018, Maddox began the battle of his young life against acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

In the first eight months of treatment, Maddox had weekly chemotherapy infusions and lumbar punctures where he had to be sedated to receive the chemotherapy in his spine. He is now in the maintenance phase of treatment and will have infusions and steroids every 12 weeks until his treatment ends in January of 2022.

“The last year has been full of emotions for our family… fear, anxiety, anger, panic, longing to be with each other when we can’t be,” explained Nour. “But it’s also been full of faith, love, joy, and support. We have felt so many arms wrapped around us by those we know and love, and even more by strangers we now call friends.”

When she registered for Lauren’s Run last year, Nour told their immediate family about the event, but didn’t really go beyond that. Word leaked out to friends and their loving group of supporters – many of whom joined the Maddox Strong Team for the race. The team grew so large that his blue shirts were all over the field and they won the Team Spirit award!

“We walked the 2k and it was a beautiful and powerful time,” Nour recalled. “To see the signs along the raceway with kids’ faces and names meant a lot to me. It showed me that we aren’t alone.”

Nour has some thoughts on families considering coming to the event on April 26.

“As you deal with cancer, you can find support in unexpected places,” She said. “Lauren’s Run brought me a sense of community. The run/walk was impactful, and the day ended with a great picnic that allows kids to forget their treatment for a little while and just be kids. Maddox had a ball and we never felt pressured. We did the walk at our own pace and when Maddox was ready to leave, we left.”

We would love for you to join us at Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic on April 26. For details and registration information, please click the button below.

Climb to a Million

Although it was one of the hottest days of the year, the 4th annual Lendmark Climb to a Million went off without a hitch. Even the heat didn’t deter hundreds of employees, friends, and family members from walking, running, and climbing at the Oconee County High School track.

The event was inspired by Chip Madren, and was held on the 9th anniversary of his brain tumor diagnosis. Bobby Aiken, CEO of Lendmark Financial, has been friends with Chip’s father since childhood and created the Climb to a Million as a way to combine his love of stadium running with a fundraiser that would engaging his company’s employees, partners, and vendors in the fight against childhood cancer.

Events, fundraisers, and smaller climbs were held throughout the country by Lendmark employees. Through their combined efforts, the Climb to a Million raised an amazing $552,000 to advance CURE’s Precision Medicine Initiative. This pushes the total amount to $1.8 million and helps CURE move the needle in bringing advanced treatment options to children fighting cancer.

“We are inspired by Lendmark and their incredible commitment to make a difference in the lives of children with cancer,” said CURE’s Executive Director, Kristin Connor. “They saw a problem and set out to fix it in a creative and fun way. Their energy and passion is contagious!”

Read more about Lendmark on their website

Lendmark CEO, Bobby Aiken and Chip Madren before the Climb

The Start of the Ride

Any ride has a starting point and a destination. An incredible event is coming to Atlanta in August: The Blackberry Smoke Ride for CURE Hosted by Tom Glavine. The ride begins at Falcon’s Fury Harley Davidson in Conyers, but it actually started nearly a decade ago with a little girl named Lana.

Lana is the daughter of Blackberry Smoke drummer, Brit Turner. When she was three she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Since that time, he and his family have been strong supporters of CURE. Lana made a full recovery and is now a happy and thriving 12-year-old.

“When Lana was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, we were told there was very little chance for survival,” said Turner. “It was a scary journey for our family, but now that our daughter is thriving, we are raising money for important pediatric cancer research and support for other childhood cancer patients and their families.”

Turner hopes that the ride that began with Lana’s treatment ends in a cure for all children, so every child diagnosed with cancer can thrive just like his little girl.

As for the event, it will include a Family Day from noon to 4 pm on Saturday, August 10 at Falcons Fury Harley Davidson, featuring music by the band Freebird and free food and beverages. Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and National Baseball Hall of Fame member Tom Glavine and his wife Chris will be on site to meet fans and riders.

On Sunday, August 11, Blackberry Smoke members, including brothers Brit and Richard Turner, will take part in the ride, as will Tom and Chris Glavine. Motorcycle officers from Conyers Police Department and Atlanta Police Department will serve as escorts for the ride to The Battery Atlanta. Riders will gather at Falcons Fury at 11 am, with kickstands up at 12 noon.

Once the ride concludes, riders and their families will be treated to live music from the band Convoy and enjoy an afternoon on the green at The Battery. During this post-ride celebration, Tom Glavine will draw and announce winners of a spectacular raffle. The one-of-kind items in the raffle include:

  • Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 customized with Blackberry Smoke Ride for Cure artwork painted by Zac Brown Customs and featuring a seat made from Mizuno baseball glove signed by Tom Glavine and Brit Turner
  • 10 custom motorcycle helmets with Blackberry Smoke Ride for CURE artwork by Zac Brown Customs
  • Demerbox Bluetooth Speaker engraved with Blackberry Smoke Ride for CURE artwork
  • Custom Southern Grind Knife
  • Blackberry Smoke autographed guitar
  • Blackberry Smoke album Set
  • Signed print of “Passing the Torch” by David Uhl, signed by artist and Tom Glavine

This is one ride you don’t want to miss!

The Low Country Annie Oakleys & CURE

“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.”

 

That quote was written by Annie Oakley and there is a group of women who get together every month to practice their aim.

The Low Country Annie Oakleys started over nine years ago with the mission of enhancing and promoting the sport of clay shooting for women and raising funds for local charities which support the health of at-risk children in the Low Country region. This area includes parts of Georgia and South Carolina. They are a diverse group of women united by a common love of shooting.

And they are serious about helping local children. Five years ago, they started a charity clays tournament. Their goal was to name a room at the local children’s hospital with a donation of $25,000. Their inaugural shoot raised five times that amount. Since then they have named operating rooms, the intensive care nurses’ station, and the pharmacy with proceeds from the next two shoots. In just four years, they have raised and donated more than $700,000 to the hospital, a food bank for children, and the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.

This year they have added CURE Childhood Cancer as a beneficiary for their 5th annual Charity Clays on October 11.

“Our goal is to get to $1 million donated,” said Nancy Thomas, one of the co-chairs for the event. “We are a group who loves to shoot, but we also want to make a difference in the area where we live, and we have seen the important work CURE is doing in the lives of children fighting cancer.”

These women are definitely making a difference. The event is limited to 40 teams and sells out quickly. Sponsors such as Presenting Sponsor, Springer Mountain Farms, also help them to reach their goals. And the day-long event includes raffles for a Caesar Guerini shotgun raffle and David Yurman matching bracelet and earrings set, a bourbon tasting, and an After Party with awards, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction, and live music.

If you like to shoot clays, the ladies of the Low Country Annie Oakleys would like to invite you to be a part of their shoot.

For more information and to register, please click the button below.

Bikers Battling for Kids

Many people have an image in their mind when they think of motorcycle clubs – and it isn’t always positive. One group of motorcycle enthusiasts aims to change that perception.

“Our club operates similar to the clubs founded in the forties,” David Little explained. “Traditionally, a club founded from a group of like-minded people who want a brotherhood and ride motorcycles”.

In an effort to differentiate themselves, several club members started a new nationwide club called, Defiant Crew Motorcycle Club. While they kept the goal of brotherhood and riding, they also wanted to add a community service aspect to the club.

“We want to show that we are committed to our communities,” David said. “Everyone has been affected by cancer. In fact, I have recently lost two of my dearest friends to the disease and I can’t imagine what kids fighting cancer have to go through.”

To fight back, the Georgia chapter of Defiant Crew MC created an event called Bikers Battling for Kids. On April 27, 70-100 bikers will gather at the Knucklehead Café in Rockmart for a poker run. From there they will ride to a park in Cave Springs, then to Sixes Tavern in Cartersville, and finally to Bikers Gone Wild in Dallas before returning to Rockmart. The loop is approximately eighty miles and at each stop they will draw a card. When everyone finishes they will each have a hand to play and the winner will receive a prize.

In the five years they’ve been making this run, they have raised over $25,000 for CURE. The event is quite organic – they literally knock on doors to get items for auction and spread the word of the poker run through word of mouth and signs placed at locations bikers frequent.

“It’s fulfilling,” said David. “To know that we can get together, ride, and do what we love while making a difference in our community is huge.”

 

Robert is Ready for Lauren’s Run

Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at just six years old, 15-year-old Robert’s childhood has been consumed by cancer. In the eight years since his diagnosis, Robert has endured 800 rounds of chemotherapy, 65 spinal taps, and countless surgeries trying to beat his cancer. It’s been an arduous fight!  But Robert is such an incredible boy and has earned his nickname, Robert the Great.

There is one event Robert looks forward to every year – Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic. Each year he creates Team Robert the Great and raises money to fight for kids like him. Having won the award for top fundraising team several years, Robert is a pro when it comes to inspiring people to give.

We sat down with Robert to ask him to share the secrets of his success.

CCC: How many years have you been doing Lauren’s Run?

RTG: I think seven.

CCC: How do you build your team?

RTG: We ask family and friends to come. Most of them agree, and if they can’t they always donate. Last year we had around forty members on our team, and we won the team spirit award.

CCC: How did you win that?

RTG: My mom and her friends are loud.

CCC: You also won the fundraising award last year. Tell me how you did that.

RTG: We ask people for money. If I ask, they’ll usually give something. It’s hard to ask and ask, so we tried to make it a game. My mom shared the page on Facebook and then we started doing funny videos. I told everybody I would smash my dad’s X-box if we got to $10,000.

CCC: Did you get there?

RTG: Yup! Then I challenged another team captain. Whoever raised the most would  get to throw an egg at the loser.

CCC: Did you win?

CCC: That looks like more than one egg.

RTG: It was a dozen, I won by a lot.

CCC: What else do you like about Lauren’s Run.

RTG: I love seeing all my friends I’ve met since I been fighting cancer. And I love the picnic too. There is great food, games to play, and oh yeah, and the game truck is awesome.

CCC: Any plans for this year?

RTG: Just to win.

When asked about his cancer, Robert simply said,

“I don’t know much about it, but I know it won’t go away.”

Robert is a fierce competitor in his fight against cancer and his goal of repeating as fundraising champion. You can join Robert, create a team, and work to end childhood cancer with us. Who knows, if things get competitive, Robert might challenge you!

This year marks the 25th Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic. We are celebrating this incredible milestone on April 28 at the Concourse Office Park in Atlanta.

Over the years, thousands of families have gathered to walk and run in support of CURE, raising more than $4.1 million for lifesaving pediatric cancer research. Lauren’s Run and the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic truly brings the community together, with families, schools, and companies forming teams to support our fight.

After the race, Lauren’s Run participants, as well as families diagnosed with childhood cancer, join together for the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual Picnic. The picnic is a day unlike any other! Dozens of games, prizes, elaborate face painting, enormous inflatables, music and dancing, arts and crafts, a full lunch, and so much more.

Registration is open at www.laurensrun.com

Bailey’s Full-Court Press

Many people want to play basketball at an elite level. But only a few possess the necessary talent, and most wouldn’t be willing to put in the work required to get there. As all eyes turn to the NCAA and March Madness, one young lady will watch a game or two only if her workout schedule allows it.

Basketball has always been Bailey Moody’s favorite sport. After bone cancer forced a partial amputation of her right leg when she was ten years old, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to continue to play.  Then she discovered wheelchair basketball. Bailey made the U.S. National Women’s Basketball Team last year at 16 and was one of the youngest players on the team. While she enjoys the travel, it has been incredibly hard work.

“I travelled to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado several times, and I got to represent the United States in the Netherlands and Germany last year,” she said. “This year we are playing in Thailand in May, and if I can play well, I’ll hopefully make the cut to go to Peru for the Pan Am Games in August.”

Globetrotting sounds glamorous until you hear her training schedule.

“I have nine workouts a week,” Bailey said. “I do three for strength, three for conditioning, and three for shooting. I try to compress them into six days so I can have Sundays off, but it doesn’t always work out. During the shooting workout, I have to shoot from different areas on the court, and then I log the percentages for the coach to see.”

That’s a lot of work – especially considering that Bailey is a junior in high school and has other interests. Bailey had to stop participating in theater this year, but she still manages to keep excellent grades, lead in student council, and play guitar and piano in two bands – one at school and one at church.

Is there anything this girl can’t do well?

“I’m not good at baking or responding to texts,” Bailey laughed. “Seriously, I love the training, but the hardest part is discipline. I have to say ‘no’ to a lot of things I want to do.”

But it is paying off. She’s currently looking into college and knows she wants to continue playing ball. She also wants to help CURE put the full-court press on childhood cancer.

“In wheelchair basketball, there is a lot of strategy involving pressing,” she explained. “We press on defense just like stand-up basketball. On offense, we press to keep a player or two off our side of the court. The chairs take up a lot of room and keeping one pent up at mid-court makes more space for our offense to move around.”

Bailey is passionate about helping kids fighting cancer. Although she admittedly doesn’t have time to watch a lot of basketball, she will be playing CURE Madness and invites you to play too. For a $25 donation, you can fill in a bracket and have a chance to win a $200 gift card. Bailey offered three tips to pick a winning bracket:

  1. Don’t pick who everyone else is picking.
  2. Don’t pick all number 1 seeds – crazy things always happen.
  3. If you have a toss-up, pick your favorite uniform color. You never know!

Join Bailey for CURE Madness by signing up today.

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