When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it really does take a community of supporters to make the child’s family feel loved and supported. Statesboro mom Jody Polk knows this first hand. When her daughter, Anna Hays, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of two, the Polks’ family, friends, and the entire community rallied on her behalf. Jody’s desire to give back to other families facing a similar diagnosis was evident at the Statesboro Sisters on Journey Dinner on April 13. About 350 guests gathered at The Belle House, a beautiful venue that was perfect for the evening. Hostesses creatively decorated their tables in a variety of themes and every single table was unique and beautiful. Tears filled Jody’s eyes as she kicked of the 2019 event by dedicating the evening to the memory of sweet Morgan Frison, a four- year-old Statesboro girl who passed away in November due to complications from her cancer treatment.
“Morgan’s life held such beautiful potential,” Jody said. “She had such a future and her it was her treatment, not her cancer, that ultimately killed her. We want her family to know that precious Morgan and the thousands of children like her are the reason that CURE will continue to raise funds and push for less harsh treatments created specifically for children.”
Savannah band, Tell Scarlet, provided musical entertainment as guests mingled and checked out table decorations and nearly 200 silent auction items on the back porch of The Belle House. Statesboro welcomed emcee Jamie Deen back for the third time. Jamie is son of cooking icon, Paula Deen, and a familiar face in South Georgia. Jamie entertained the guests until a delicious dinner, provided by Honey Catering, was served.
The focus then shifted to the purpose of the evening as Karen Rutherford and her daughter, Katie, took the stage. Karen is CURE’s Patient and Family Services Manager and Katie is a survivor of rhabdomyosarcoma. Both were open and transparent about the difficulties and triumphs of Katie’s battle. They movingly shared some of the toughest things about Katie’s treatment and helped everyone in attendance understand a little more of what it is like to fight cancer as a teenager. Karen wrapped up their story by sharing about the continued need for funding for research for better and more current treatments for kids battling cancer. The evening closed with an exciting live auction hosted by auctioneer, Joe Lanier. It was a beautiful, meaningful night.
We are thrilled to announce that our 2019 Statesboro Sisters on a Journey Event raised $81,000 for Catie’s Fund! These funds will support CURE’s precision medicine initiative, which brings individualized, gene-based treatment to children with cancer. Precision medicine is one of the most promising new areas of research for improving survival rates in children while lessening harsh side effects.
We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors, auction donors, volunteers, and tables hostesses who made this evening so special. Thank you, Statesboro!
Presenting Sponsors for our 2019 Sisters on a Journey Events are The Little Bird Foundation, Memorial Health, Coastal Electric, Savannah Toyota, and The McGraley Company.
Effingham County showed up and gave generously once again at the Effingham Sisters on Journey Dinner on March 9, 2019. Over 900 guests gathered at beautiful Honey Ridge Plantation near Guyton, GA, a venue generously donated for use by the Effingham County Board of Education. The tables were set in a spacious white tent (provided by Ranco Tent Rentals) that was perfect for the event. Hostesses once again creatively decorated their tables in a variety of themes and every, single one was unique and beautiful.
Guests perused more than 400 silent auction items under the rustic barn lit with Edison bulbs donated by Carlson’s Premier Events. A local band, Goshen Travelers, provided great entertainment as guests mingled and checked out the beautifully decorated tables. Later, emcee Lonnie Pate began the program by drawing door prizes, and then a delicious dinner was provided by Simply Southern Catering. Following dinner, auctioneer, Kenny Williams got the crowd going for an exciting live auction. Next came one of the favorite parts of the Effingham dinner: the raffle drawings for themed baskets donated by generous hostesses.
The heart of the evening was panel of patients and moms who took the stage to share about their journey through childhood cancer. Kelli Stuckey and her daughter, Lily, shared about some scary moments in Lily’s treatment for leukemia. Alana Williams and her daughter, Nevaeh, talked about the difficulties of travelling back and forth to Atlanta for treatment and shared about Nevaeh’s sixteen-hour surgery to remove thirteen tumors from her abdomen. Ashley Shiell and her daughter, Kylie, talked about the challenges of being a teenager and having cancer. Kylie pointed out how difficult it has been to miss playing the sport she loves while battling leukemia. Finally, Ashley Beam told the crowd about her son, John, who died last October after a difficult battle with neuroblastoma. She graciously helped the crowd know who John was and shared how new neuroblastoma treatments are desperately needed. All of the panel guests were open and honest about the difficulties of their journeys, but each also shared of the things they have learned during this time in a powerful and moving manner.
It was a beautiful evening, and we are thrilled to announce that our 2019 Effingham Sisters on a Journey Event raised $144,000 for Catie’s Fund! These funds will support CURE’s precision medicine program which offers individualized therapies based on the patient’s genetics. This innovative research envisions more effective treatment while limited the harsh side effects of current methods.
We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors, auction donors, volunteers, and tables hostesses who made this evening possible. Thank you, Effingham County!
Presenting Sponsors for our 2019 Sisters on a Journey Events are Memorial Health, Coastal Electric, Savannah Toyota, and The McGraley Company.
“A beautiful night, an amazing evening, a worthy cause, an outstanding event!”
These are the words Sisters on a Journey guests are using to describe Savannah’s Sisters on Journey Dinner on February 8th. Over 500 guests gathered at the restored historic Kehoe Ironworks building at The Trustees’ Garden venue in downtown Savannah. As guests walked through the doors, they posed for photos taken by South Magazine. Upon entry to the main event space, guests were overwhelmed by the lovely, original table themes and décor. The hostesses decorated tables with everything from traditional dinner décor to themed tables in honor or memory of a patient such as the sailboat tables in honor of Malone, a 16-year-old leukemia patient who loves sailing. There were just fun themes that lent themselves to easily dressing up as a group. Some original group themes this year were a karate kid themed table, “Kick Childhood Cancer”, a Beetles Yellow Submarine Table, “All Together for a CURE” complete with Beetles shaped cookies and record album dinner chargers, a Succulent filled table containing signs with phrases like “Childhood Cancer is a real prick”, and a Frida Kahlo inspired table created by Tequilla’s Town Restaurant with a sign that read, “Let’s TeqKILLa Cancer.” Every single table was unique and beautiful.
Guests enjoyed cocktails and perusing silent auction items on the patio while listening to music provided by local band, Tell Scarlet. A delicious dinner was provided by Silk Road Catering. After dinner, emcee Andrew Davis drew door prizes, allowed patients to share why CURE is important, and introduced keynote speaker, Kristine Bothwell. Kristine shared the story of her daughter Ella’s cancer journey. Kristine drove home the need for new improved research for pediatric cancer by sharing that Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s young daughter, Karen, lost her life in 1962 to the same disease, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, that took Ella’s life in 2016. Kristine said, “In 55 years, we can put a man on the moon, but we still do not have an effective treatment for DIPG. This is unacceptable.” There was not a dry eye in the crowd when Kristine showed a video tribute of Ella’s life.
At the end of the evening, Andrew Davis and Auctioneer, Kenny Williams got the crowd going during an exciting live auction. We are thrilled to announce that our 2019 Savannah Sisters on a Journey Event raised $130,000 for Catie’s Fund! These funds will support Precision Medicine which enables patients whose cancer has not responded to traditional methods to undergo genetic testing to help doctors decide which treatment might target that patient’s specific cancer without harsh side effects. We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors, auction donors, volunteers, high school volunteers, and tables hostesses who made this evening possible. Thank you, Savannah!
Presenting Sponsors for our 2019 Sisters on a Journey Events are Memorial Health, Coastal Electric, Savannah Toyota, and The McGraley Company.
It’s what we all do at the end of the year, right? Memories we’ve shared with family and friends from the past year flood our hearts and our minds. We choose the joyous ones and hold them close for a lifetime, and we try desperately to endure the ones less joyous…while praying that the new year will be easier. And, that it will be filled with opportunities for celebrations and positive growth.
Growth is a really beautiful thing! Especially in the world of childhood cancer research.
Reflection + Recognition = Growth
As we all begin to reflect on what was 2018, I wanted to share some of the exciting news surrounding The Carter Martin Fund at CURE Childhood Cancer. The end of December marks halfway though CURE’s current fiscal year. In only 6 short months Carter’s Fund has raised an astounding $87,000!
Reflection + Action = Hope
In November we held the inaugural Piggy Bank Bash in Savannah which was a huge success! For those of you who don’t know the details of Carter’s story, in the final days of his life he asked me to get his piggy bank and said, “Mom, give all of my money to childhood cancer research so no other kid has to suffer like me.” At the Piggy Bank Bash guests were invited to take home individual CURE piggy banks allowing them to serve as a reminder that children with cancer need change….they need change in their treatment options that provide better outcomes and cause fewer life long side effects. Our Savannah team poured their hearts into this event, making certain that no one in the community will want to miss the Piggy Bank Bash next year!
It is with tender hearts that those of us at CURE Childhood Cancer recognize the reality of the many children who were diagnosed in 2018, those who continued to endure treatment, and also the sweet, young lives that we lost over the past year. Our hope lies in the children who were declared disease free, those who are survivors, and most importantly, the ones who are being offered different treatment options through the Precision Medicine Program at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. This program is CURE Childhood Cancer’s largest grant to date that envisions personalized, non-toxic and curative cancer therapy for all children. 2018-2019 marks year two of our $4.5 million commitment, which has already produced measurable results since its inception.
Reflection + Hope = A Cure
Reflection… cathartic in seeing how far we’ve come and crucial in making a plan for what we still need to do. Over time that reflection will yield a great reward, knowing that we have made a difference in the lives of children with cancer.
Upon further reflection of what Carter Martin wanted, no more kids suffering, we say let’s continue the fight. It is our greatest honor to fight this fight with you.
Thank you for partnering with us in these efforts and for your generous contributions to The Carter Martin Fund over the past year. Every penny out of your piggy banks counts and we appreciate your continued support of this cause. We wish for YOU and your family a wonderful holiday filled with health and happiness.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Tre and Jenny Wilkins’ firstborn daughter, Catie, was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer called medullablastoma on her first birthday. During Catie’s journey, the family learned that Tre’s cousin had passed away from the same cancer twenty years prior. To their dismay, there had been no advancement in treatment for medullablastoma in two decades. After a long and hard battle, the Wilkins lost Catie in 2007. After her passing, Tre and Jenny decided that they must do something to try to help improve treatment. They couldn’t bear to think of another twenty years with no improvements in treatment to offer other families. CURE Childhood Cancer had been an organization that was helpful to the Wilkins throughout Catie’s treatment. They liked CURE because not only did CURE fund exclusively pediatric cancer research, but it served patients and families as well, something no other organization in the area was doing at the time. The Wilkins set up a named fund through CURE called Catie’s Fund and committed to raising funds to support CURE’s research grants.
The Wilkins tried fundraising through golf tournaments and sporting events, but they didn’t enjoy hosting those events. In 2009, Jenny and a friend were brainstorming fundraising ideas and decided to try something different. They wanted to solicit women as table hostesses who would invite friends, decorate their table, and enjoy an evening for a great cause. Their idea was to name the event, “Sisters on a Journey,” referring to all the friends, family members, fellow cancer moms, nurses, co-workers, and community members who supported the Wilkins throughout their journey. The first Sisters on a Journey dinner was held in the social hall of a local church. About 150 women attended and raised $5000. Jenny and Tre felt the event was a success and decided to do it again.
Each year since 2009, Sisters on a Journey has experienced significant growth. Jenny Wilkins now has a team of volunteers who serve on a planning committee. Jenny partnered up with Mandy Garola, CURE’s Patient and Family Services Manager in Savannah, in 2014 to replicate the event in Savannah to reach more people. In 2015, more than 120 women committed to hosting tables in Savannah and the original Effingham County location. The table hostesses elaborately decorate their own tables which makes the event fun and unique. Many guests match their dress to their table theme. Last year, a group of pediatric oncology nurses from Savannah came donned in their 1920’s-inspired attire to match their Gatsby themed table. Both the Savannah and Effingham dinners included a live and silent auction and raised more than $110,000 for Catie’s Fund to fund research.
The event continues to grow, expanding to Statesboro in 2016 and adding a Bryan County event in 2017.
Sisters on a Journey has become something guests look forward to each year. With the help of loyal hostesses and guests, Catie’s Fund has raised more than $500,000 in the past six years. It’s amazing what the vision of one family has inspired.
“Larger than Life.” That is how Sam Robb is described by those who knew him. This is fitting not only because of his huge stature, but also because of his gregarious and determined personality. As a sophomore in high school, Sam stood six feet five inches tall and weighed two hundred twenty-five pounds. A natural athlete, his ability in both football and basketball had already piqued some college interest and it was during training that he realized he couldn’t move laterally without pain in his knee.
Assuming this was a sports injury, his family took him to the doctor only to learn that Sam had Osteosarcoma, a childhood bone cancer. Sam tackled treatment just like he would an opponent on the field. When he was finished, he had to step away from his favorite sports but reemerged as a very promising relief pitcher on the baseball diamond. Unfortunately, four years later he noticed that he got winded during exercise and went back to the doctor to find out he had relapsed with a tumor on his lung.
A number of nationally renowned doctors felt the surgery to remove the tumor was life-threatening. Eventually, a brave surgeon agreed with Sam to go for the “long ball” and remove the tumor and a lung. Sam never made it off of the table.
Sam’s fighting spirit didn’t die with him. His family used it to create The Sam Robb Fund.
The Sam Robb Fund does two things equally near and dear to the Robb family. First, the fund supports the Sam Robb Fellow at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Services of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine. In this way, Sam is able to help train the pediatric oncologists who will serve future cancer patients with the same love and caring attention that he received. His mom, Annamarie, also said that it is special to know they are supporting a young fellow that is about Sam’s age – a potential peer and friend to Sam had he survived. Second, the fund supports CURE’s Open Arms Meal Program. CURE was on the floor serving meals on Sam’s first day of chemo and has been an intricate part of the Robb’s journey ever since.
To fund these goals, Sam’s family has created four events: A golf tournament, a basketball tournament, a color run, and a brewfest. Note the heavy tilt toward sports – a special way to honor Sam’s love of athletic pursuits and his talent. The support and leadership for these events are very organic and grass roots and many of Sam’s friends make it a point to come back annually to participate.
In its ten years, the Sam Robb fund has generated nearly $700,000 to accomplish these goals. CURE is proud to partner with the Robb family to honor Sam’s legacy and work together toward a world free of childhood cancer, where every child can play however they like.
Join us at 9:00am on November 12th as the Centennial High Cross Country Club hosts the first ever Sam Robb Color Run/Walk and festival, with proceeds benefiting The Sam Robb Fund of CURE Childhood Cancer.
And get more information on the upcoming Sam Robb Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Moving. Leaving. Exchanging one place for another. Often it is done out of necessity, sometimes done by choice – a new job, new family, or an opportunity to prosper in another place. First comes the decision and then there is the packing. Endless boxes poured over with closets that seemed so small when you lived there, but never seem to have a back wall when you’re forced to clear them out. How many trips to Goodwill could there possibly be in a 2500 square foot house? The answer to that can be a staggering amount.
What do you take and what do you leave?
Most of us have moved at some point. It is a difficult process, to say the least. I have made the request of my family to never make me endure another move. When I go, I just want them to condemn the house and implode the walls around me. It would be easier for all of us that way.
Would you ever leave your child behind?
You laugh at that.
You are ready to close the browser and stop reading because the question seems preposterous. You say there is no possible way you would do that! You would never leave your child and on the face of it, I see your objection to my question. But I met a woman – a loving mother who was forced to do just that. She moved away from her son.
After a five year sickness that turned into a cancer diagnosis and ended in her son’s death at seven years-old, Stephanie’s life took a number of turns. She left Atlanta and moved further north where no one knew her situation, no one had heard of her son, and nobody spoke his name. His name. Creed. It’s not their fault, they couldn’t have known. Some have learned of her boy and will read about him and comment to her. That is a sweet effort that she always appreciates. But he’s not here. He lived two homes ago and often seems a lifetime away.
Everyone handles loss differently. For some, an escape is necessary. To move forward, they have to move away from the place of pain and that’s okay. There is no right way to grieve – no cookie cutter process or recipe to be followed that will mend a broken heart. Some hearts stay broken.
So how do you adapt? How does one go to a new place and leave their child behind?
“Our guest room is a shrine. I tell people they are welcome to stay but I warn them because I don’t want to freak them out when they see all of his stuff and his pictures on the wall,” she said. “And when the house is quiet and I need him, I go and lay down in his bed.”
Unfortunately, Mom’s like Stephanie aren’t alone. Cancer has caused far too many moms to make a choice to stay or move. She keeps Creed’s memory alive by telling his story and decorating his room. But more importantly, she is working with CURE to fund a cure to childhood cancer so that other moms don’t have to leave their babies behind. Join Stephanie today and contribute to The Creedlove Fund.
The Creedlove Fund provides support to patients undergoing treatment for childhood cancer and their families. Your gift, no matter how large or small will help a family in need.
If ever there was an angel on Earth, you’d find her to be sweet Alexa Lee Hartenstein. She came into the world on March 16, 2009, with the most calm and peaceful personality, which grew with her into childhood. She always had a smile on her face, and she was so full of laughter and joy that it was contagious! Life with Alexa was as normal as life could be until the day her parents heard the words that no one ever dreams they will hear: “Your child has cancer.”
In September 2011, after a month of unexplained vomiting, falling down with every few steps, and many other symptoms, Alexa was diagnosed with a brain tumor – an sPNET, and it was extremely aggressive. It was a parent’s worst nightmare, but somehow Alexa managed to keep a smile through it all! From needle pokes to MRIs, chemo treatments to stem cell transplant, brain surgeries to radiation, Alexa endured more in three and a half years than many of us will face in a lifetime. In December 2015, after learning of her fourth relapse which had taken over her brain and spine, Alexa was moved to hospice care. Even then, her laughter and positive attitude never faded, and she continued to entertain her family and friends with her jokes and endless giggles. Alexa Lee was a fighter, and she showed what fierce determination looked like, right up until the very end. On February 26, 2015, her journey with cancer came to an end, and she earned the most beautiful set of angel wings.
Although Alexa’s life was cut short by cancer, she taught everyone who knew her just what it meant to live. To laugh amidst the worst of storms, and to enjoy every moment, good or bad. To be kind and show compassion to each person you meet, no matter the circumstances. To never give up the fight, even when things get hard. To find joy in every day and give back to those who needed it most.
Purpose of the Fund:
Alexa’s family hopes to keep her legacy alive by helping other families who are battling childhood cancer. The Team Alexa Fighting Back fund will support CURE’s ongoing patient and family support programs, such as the Open Arms meal program and Family Emergency Fund.
How To Donate to Team Alexa Fighting Back:
Click here to donate online and choose “Team Alexa Fighting Back” in the Designation section. Your gift will be directed accordingly.
Checks can be made out to CURE Childhood Cancer, with “Team Alexa” written on the notes line. Mail checks to: CURE Childhood Cancer, 1117 Perimeter Center West, Suite N-402, Atlanta, GA 30338
When the tragedy of cancer strikes a family, their whole world shifts; they transition into fight mode – fighting for their children and fighting for a cure. Sometimes, families take this fight head-on for life. We’re humbled to introduce you to three such families; families who have faced the tragedy of losing their children’s lives and have made it their mission to make a difference for the lives of others. Meet CURE’s latest Named Fund, United for a CURE: The Mary Elizabeth, Melissa, Lake Fund.
United for a CURE was founded in honor of three incredibly brave children: Mary Elizabeth, Melissa and Lake. While to an outsider these children may have seemed unlikely friends, to those who knew them, their connection was crystal clear. You see, Mary Elizabeth, Melissa and Lake not only shared a fiery spirit, but they also shared a battle against a monster of a disease: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Three children. One diagnosis. One treatment protocol. Mary Elizabeth, Melissa and Lake bonded instantly in the hospital and brought together three families for a united circle of support. If determination and prayers were enough, these three precious children would still be with us today. But AML is a monster, and it took the lives of Mary Elizabeth, Melissa and Lake within months of one another in 2015. Despite the tragic loss, three times over, their stories inspired hundreds of thousands and forever ignited a fire within three families – three families United for a CURE.
Mary Elizabeth’s Story
No one saw it coming. Mary Elizabeth was a vibrant, happy 11-year-old in the spring of 2014 when the headaches, tummy aches and bruising started. Spring Break vacation was cut short when Mary Elizabeth visibly just wasn’t herself. She was soon diagnosed with AML – an aggressive leukemia requiring not just chemotherapy, but a bone marrow transplant. Despite Mary Elizabeth’s tortuous journey – including three bone marrow transplants from her brother, father and mother – Mary Elizabeth’s personality and love of life was simply infectious. Hundreds of thousands followed Mary Elizabeth’s fight, cheering her on and praying vigorously for her cure. She suffered through chemo burns over 90% of her body. Cranial radiation, near paralysis, induced coma, three lung bleeds – and indescribable pain. Mary Elizabeth minimized the suffering, complaining only of missing her cats and her brother and sister, who held such a precious place in her heart. Her family and friends – and thousands of strangers – prayed for a miracle. Mary Elizabeth died on September 2, 2015. And while her life was cut short, she left us with the miracle of having created an astounding level of awareness about the reality of an awful disease – childhood cancer. And she left us a challenge: to end the disease that cuts short such valorous, promising lives as Mary Elizabeth’s.
It seemed Melissa was born to confer on the rest of us her infinite love of life. Adoring butterflies and princesses; singing and dancing her days away. Melissa’s parents always knew she was special and going to do big things with her life. They just didn’t know in what way. Melissa offered more inspiration in her three short years on this earth than most do in their lifetime. Her diagnosis of AML when she was only two years old was heart-stopping. Melissa’s parents braced for the onslaught of chemotherapy on such a young body. Melissa defied it, riding through the hallways on her bike after doses and doses of chemo. Unfortunately, Melissa relapsed after a bone marrow transplant. Melissa’s parents searched the world for life saving treatment options. But there were none. Melissa never stopped dancing and smiling through it all, always amazing her doctors and nurses with her strong mind and beautiful spirit. Her parents believe their little girl’s brief life is a giant lesson on how we all should love the life we have been given. To the utmost.
Lake was all boy; he was non-stop motion. A basketball, his closest companion. Lake had a way of lifting people’s spirits just by being there. So his diagnosis of AML hit Lake’s family like a meteor. But chemotherapy, remission and a new baby sister cured everything. For a while. However, the cancer returned with a vengeance and Lake needed a bone marrow transplant. But this was Lake! Give him the ball and he was back to his old self. After the transplant, Lake was back in remission – back to being the Rock Star he was. But the cancer returned again. This time, with the heartbreaking news it was incurable. Lake’s parents decided their son should live his remaining months to the fullest. School, sports and the beach. Lake left us in May of 2015. Fittingly, he left with the Rock Star image that remains with the lives he lifted.
Purpose of the Fund:
The primary purpose of United for a CURE, The Mary Elizabeth, Melissa, Lake Fund, is to fund clinical research relating to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) or research reasonably expected to provide significant and direct benefits to children diagnosed with AML. The Fund is managed by CURE Childhood Cancer, an organization dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research and supporting patients and their families.