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Carrying Hope

Trenton Kindred will carry an extra bit of hope when he walks across the graduation stage in his scarlet cap and gown. Not only hope for his future that was once in doubt, but he also carries a special hope for others that he and his family have nurtured since 2006.

When Trenton was only one year old, he was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. His parents, Greg and Ginger, had to watch as their baby began a very harsh treatment and all its horrible side effects. They were told he had a 20% chance of survival and a 70% chance of relapse. Before reaching his 25th month, Trenton endured five rounds of intense chemo, two bone marrow transplants, 21 days of being put to sleep during radiation treatments, several surgeries, 27 port line infections, and six months of oral chemo.

Through it all, Trenton fought back. His determination and love of life helped him get through these rigorous challenges. In 2006, Trenton was declared cancer-free.

“Trenton’s experience has shown us the huge need for less-toxic cancer treatments specifically tailored to kids and their growing bodies,” Ginger said. “Our family hopes that in the future, no other family will ever hear the heart-sinking words ‘Your child has cancer.’ But if that does happen, there will be hope – a hope of a cure and less toxic treatments tailored to kids that will allow them to be kids that grow into healthy adults.”

Not ones to sit idly by and let others do the work, the Kindred family started the Trenton W. Kindred Research Fund, a named fund at CURE. The purpose of the fund is to support childhood cancer research. The Kindreds and their supporters are committed to advancing better treatment for neuroblastoma and, ultimately, to find a cure for this aggressive disease. To date, the fund has raised $303,465 to fight childhood cancer! That is a lot of hope that Trenton and his family have provided to other children in the fight.

And Trenton? He’s doing great these days. After graduating with honors, he will head to Oglethorpe University in the fall, where he will study Business Administration and Economics. He’s not 100% sure where that will lead but is hoping to further his education in law school as a corporate or commercial real estate lawyer.

“He continues to amaze us with his infectious humor, shyness, and love for life,” said Ginger. “He’s an old soul, and he is fearless. But he is also reserved and has a soft soul that we think comes from staring into the darkest of places at such a young age. He is truly a miracle, and our family lives each day not taking anything for granted.”

Back Together Again

It’s been two years since we could have an in-person Catie’s Gathering event. Catie’s Gathering Savannah, presented by Coastal Electric, brought us back in gear in a big way. It was so good to be together on March 11, when more than 500 people gathered at the Kehoe Ironworks to raise money for childhood cancer research and enjoy a special evening together.

“Driving home last night, I was trying to pick a favorite moment, and I couldn’t,” said Catie’s mother, Jenny Wilkins. “There were so many moments that made me laugh, others that moved me to tears, some that made me cheer, and some that just warmed my heart.”

CURE vice-president Mandy Garola started the Savannah Catie’s Gathering nine years ago. There are so many reasons it continues to grow – not the least of which are the sponsors, committee members, volunteers, staff, hostesses, vendors, donors, and guests.

Mark and Robin Myers shared their beautiful Kylie’s story. Carlson & Co. and Kaufman-Heinz made everything work seamlessly. Holly Webb handled the technology while the Junkyard Angels warmed us up with great music. The evening’s host, Andrew Davis, kept the evening flowing, and auctioneer Kenny Williams did an amazing job.

“I’ve been trying all day to put last night into words, and it’s nearly impossible,” said Mandy. “The growth that we’ve seen at Catie’s Gathering – Savannah is tremendous, and last night was the best event we’ve ever had. Looking around that room and seeing my friends, family, survivors, current families on treatment, and special people from all my worlds colliding just warmed my heart.”

Catie’s Gathering is having a tremendous impact on children with cancer. Money raised funds CURE’s Precision Medicine Program, which seeks to bring genetic therapies to children.

“When Catie was sick, precision medicine wasn’t an option for kids battling cancer,” Jenny said. “I will always wonder if it would have made a difference for her. The good news is that it is becoming an option for more and more kids battling high risk and relapsed cancers. I truly believe this is the future of pediatric cancer treatment, and I pray it’s the way we finally defeat this awful disease. Thank you to all who supported the event to take us another step closer.”

The 2022 Catie’s Gathering Savannah raised $188,825 – the highest total ever. Thank you to all who made this evening possible.

If you would like to see a photo gallery from the evening, please click HERE.

A Letter from the Robb Family

Dear Friends,

Some say that you die twice in life. Once when you take your last breath, and a second time when someone says your name for the last time. We are grateful that, in the 14 years since Sam took his last breath, we, along with so many others, are continuing to say his name and honor his memory.

As time has passed, we have been able to remember Sam and smile. As a family, we reflect on our favorite memories and share stories that make it seem like June 25, 2007 was just yesterday. But we are approaching another milestone, and with that milestone comes the hard truth that this fight is not over.

The average age of a child diagnosed with childhood cancer is six, and their battles with cancer can last for years. Doctors and nurses are pivotal in the success of each child’s diagnosis and battle with cancer. Sam was especially grateful for the care and support of his doctors, particularly Dr. George and Nurse Erika. They exemplified the immense value of having a medical team dedicated to supporting each child beyond the routine treatment. We are so grateful they were there for Sam, and their example motivates us to continue our work to support Childhood Cancer Research through the Fellow Program at Emory University School of Medicine.

Since founding the Sam Robb Fund in 2007, we have been able to fund six Sam Robb Fellows. We are grateful for your ongoing support, especially this year, as the world has been grappling with the coronavirus. Your generosity enables us to support our fellow and keep Sam’s memory alive.

We hope to gather in the upcoming year. Many blessings to you and your families,

Sam, Annamarie, Liz, Caroline, and Katherine

PS: It is a rare blessing to find a new picture after so long. But we found this picture of Sam recently and wanted to share it with you, our friends.

 

A Rock Band & A Little Girl Named AC

At first glance, an iconic Southern rock band and a sweet little girl with big hazel eyes would seem to have nothing in common. But a deeper look reveals two families, each with little girls stricken by cancer, who share a resolve to make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer.

In 2009, at the age of three, Lana Turner was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Lana’s dad, Brit, is the drummer of the popular rock band Blackberry Smoke. Thankfully, Lana got through treatment and, at 13, is doing great today. But Brit and the band wanted to ensure all children with cancer have a chance to grow up and live life like Lana is doing, so they started donating money raised through meet and greet packages to childhood cancer organizations.

“As a band, we have always tried to lend a hand anytime we were able,” Brit said. “But it wasn’t until Lana was diagnosed that I felt it from the other side. This was the first time I felt like I was completely helpless.”

In 2019, Blackberry Smoke worked with CURE to create a “Named Fund” called the Blackberry Smoke Fund. The goal is to focus the funds the band raises through the meet and greet packages and the annual Blackberry Smoke Ride for CURE for greatest impact. They felt they could do this best by working hand in hand with CURE.

As Blackberry Smoke was hosting meet and greets to raise money for research, another family across town was dealt a devasting blow. Another little girl, six-year-old Anna Charles (or “AC”) was recovering from a tonsillectomy. To her family’s shock, a blood test revealed she had leukemia.

Three days after her diagnosis, a mass of AML cells was discovered on her spine. She had emergency surgery to remove the mass, but it left her spine in shock – causing her to become paralyzed from her lower chest down. After four rounds of chemo, Anna Charles relapsed and began preparing for radiation and a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, her body began to shut down before the transplant could be scheduled. On September 16, 2018, Anna Charles passed away. Devastated by the loss of their beautiful little girl, AC’s family felt compelled to help other children facing the brutal disease.

“We have hope that one day there will be a cure for childhood cancer,” shared AC’s father, Benji. “Until that day comes, we are going to make sure that we do everything in our power to help find better treatments for all of our kids who are battling cancer. They are all ours!”

AC’s family created the Anna Charles Hollis Fund at CURE to provide advance clinical research relating to acute myeloid leukemia.

“CURE’s Named Funds are a great way for families to create a legacy for their child or otherwise honor the journey they have endured,” explains CURE’s Executive Director, Kristin Connor. They allow us, as a childhood cancer community, to work together for greatest impact while honoring the children who fight this fight.”

If you’d like to learn about honoring a Childhood Cancer Hero through a Named Funds, please visit curechildhoodcancer.org/about-cure/named-funds/ or fill out the form below and we will be in touch.

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Effingham County’s Catie’s Gathering 2020

An amazing group of people came together in Effingham County on Saturday, March 7th to enjoy a great night of community and raise money to fund life-saving research for pediatric cancers. This was the 10th annual dinner benefiting Catie’s Fund, a named fund of CURE Childhood Cancer. Formerly called Sisters on a Journey, the event is now known as Catie’s Gathering.

The on-going rain in the community prior to the event necessitated a last-minute move from Honey Ridge Agri-Center to Marlow Elementary School. Several schools and organizations in the county stepped forward to offer their space once word of the need to move got out. Members of the community all pitch in and do what they can to make a difference – which is a classic example of what makes this event so special. Two in-kind sponsors, Carlson’s Premier Events and Kaufman Heinz, were instrumental in making the venue change successful.

Other than the move to Marlow, things went as planned. Sponsors, in-kind donors, CURE families, volunteers, table hostesses, and guests all came out for a great night. Before the start of the event, guests enjoyed perusing silent auction items and listening to live music provided by local band, Goshen Travelers.

One of the things that makes this event so unique is that each table is decorated individually. The table hostesses chose a theme or color scheme and created elaborate tablescapes and centerpieces. The hostesses certainly weren’t shy on creativity when they came up with themes like Crushing Cancer, We’ve “Goat” to CURE Childhood Cancer, Cooking for a CURE, and Kissing Childhood Cancer Goodbye.

Emcee, Lonnie Pate, started the program by welcoming the crowd. Simply Southern Catering served guests a delicious meal and Southern Kafe on 17 provided a great coffee bar. Door prizes and an exciting live auction with auctioneer, Kenny Williams, really got things rolling. Kenny later shaved his head in honor of kids fighting cancer and to celebrate all the money raised that night.

CURE’s Jenny Wilkins and teenage cancer survivor, Seth Rousch, shared some facts about childhood cancer with the crowd before Seth shared about his journey through childhood cancer. He shared some very difficult parts of his story including the months he spent away from home undergoing CAR T-cell therapy and eventually a bone marrow transplant.

In a poignant display, cancer survivors and families who had lost their child to cancer were invited down front for a candle-lighting. Each family or survivor shared the name and diagnosis of their warrior. The room was silent during this beautiful and moving moment as they realized just how many local families have been affected by childhood cancer. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as these families lit candles and guests in the room stood to honor cousins, grandchildren, or siblings who had fought similar battles.

Thank you, Effingham County, for coming together once again. Everyone did their part and worked to raise $168,885 to improve treatment for children with cancer. We can’t wait until 2021!

Savannah’s Catie’s Gathering 2020

Where can you find 550 guests gathered on a Friday evening wearing everything from medical scrubs, to camouflage, to flapper costumes all coming together for the same reason… to raise much needed funds for childhood cancer research? No where other than Savannah’s Catie’s Gathering Event benefiting CURE Childhood Cancer!

Savannah showed up in a big way on Friday, February 7th at the Kehoe Ironworks building overlooking the river downtown. Coastal Electrics attended as the event’s Title Sponsor. In addition, many other sponsors, in-kind donors, hospital staff, patient parents, volunteers, table hostesses, and guests were in attendance. Everyone enjoyed a cocktail hour while perusing silent auction items and listening to live music provided by local band, Tell Scarlet. Special thanks to Carlson’s Premier Events for helping make the room look beautiful.

The table hostesses chose a theme or color scheme and created elaborate tablescapes and centerpieces. The hostesses certainly weren’t shy on creativity when they came up with themes like When Life Gives You Lemons, Speakeasy, Fight Hard, Do you Wanna find a CURE (complete with Frozen’s Olaf the Snowman), and a Top Gun tribute; The Need For a CURE.

WSAV reporter, Andrew Davis, served as the nights emcee and Silk Road Catering provided guests with a delicious meal. While it was served, they listened to Jenny Wilkins, Co-Founder of Catie’s Fund, interview three Savannah teens: Seth Rousch, Lauren Stephens, and Lily Stuckey. The teens shared the trials of their cancer journies and what’s been happening in their lives over the past twelve months. Each shared some very difficult stories.

  • When Seth’s disease did not reach remission, he spent months away from home undergoing Car T Cell Therapy and eventually a bone marrow transplant.
  • Lauren’s relapsed stage-4 neuroblastoma didn’t respond to treatment until after she received genetic testing through Precision Medicine and began a clinical trial drug that targeted her genetic mutation. Managing life and treatment as a new college freshman with cancer was difficult. Lauren experienced a setback in her treatment, but she has a positive outlook for the future.
  • Lily’s leukemia treatment has not been easy but meeting a friend with the same diagnosis made cancer more tolerable. Lily shared how her friend, Kylie Shiell, who sat with her at the same event in 2019, passed away a few months earlier.

“Kylie did all her big things in life on the 13th of month,” Lily bravely said. “She was born on September 13, diagnosed with leukemia on April 13, and on November 13, 2019, I lost my cancer bestie.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when a tribute video to Kylie was played and Lily presented a special wooden angel that she painted to Kylie’s mother, Ashley, as a gift.

After an exciting live auction with auctioneer, Kenny Williams, guests left with full bellies and full hearts knowing that Savannah once again rallied together to fund better treatments for the community’s youngest cancer fighters.

“One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Jenny began talking with 18-year-old Lauren,” guest Katie Kelley wrote. “She explained how the treatment that finally worked for Lauren, was a result of the Precision Medicine Program that CURE is funding through events like this!”

Thank you, Savannah, for coming together once again. Everyone did their part to raise $140,000 to improve treatment for children with cancer. We can’t wait until 2021!

A Legacy of Compassion

If you waved at Michael Mugrage, it’s doubtful you would have received a wave in return. More than likely, you’d have gotten a warm smile and one of his signature shakas – a hand gesture residents of Hawaii use to convey the Aloha spirit. It is a sign of friendship, compassion, and respect. Michael was born in Hawaii and spent his first twelve years there before moving to Bluffton, South Carolina.

In Bluffton, Michael grew to become a typical high school teenager. He liked playing Xbox, loved football (he’s a huge fan of Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers), was looking forward to getting his driver’s license, and was taking classes to pursue a future career in law enforcement. But he was getting thin, and he started complaining of severe leg pain, abdominal pain, and headaches. A doctor said these were just growing pains, but just days later, Michael was in urgent care with a collapsed lung.

Two hospital transfers via ambulance in a matter of hours and several tests later, he received devastating news. On Halloween 2017, Michael and his mother, Jessica, were told that he most likely had cancer. He had a large mass and would need surgery for a biopsy. The result came back as high-risk (stage 4) alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), an aggressive soft tissue cancer. Although they were fairly new to Bluffton at the time of the devastating diagnosis, their neighbors rallied to their side. The high school principal, teachers, classmates, and several police officers stopped in to visit. Early on, Captain Joe Babkiewicz of the Bluffton Police Department and Michael formed a strong friendship based on their passion for law enforcement and football. Recognizing his qualities of courage, strength, and compassion, Captain Babkiewicz made Michael an honorary Bluffton police officer and designated him a “True Hero.”

Michael endured months of high-intensity chemotherapy treatments, surgery to remove the mass, and the lifetime amount of radiation to his lung and abdomen. For a while, the treatment seemed to work, and Michael was counting down his remaining treatments with hopes of remission and returning to high school. Unfortunately, nine months into treatment, the cancer returned with a vengeance and Michael was given days to live.

Proving his status as a hero, Michael accepted his fate and asked to enroll in a trial to help other children, even after being told it would not help him. He was scheduled for an appointment, but his health deteriorated quickly, leaving him unable to travel for the trial. Michael passed away on August 28, 2018 at the age of 16.

When Michael knew his time on earth was coming to an end, he again showed the compassion for which he had been commended. He told his friends and family that his desire was to see an end to pediatric cancer so that children diagnosed after him would have hope of a long life.

A New Name, Same Impactful Event

Dear friends,

When we think about all of the good that’s been done by those in our community of friends and neighbors through Catie’s Fund over the last twelve and a half years, we’re at a loss for words. You guys have blown us away time after time with your generosity and your heart for kids battling cancer. We are so grateful for each and every one of you and all you have done. You’ve helped us grow and you’ve helped increase the impact we’re able to have.

In fact, you’ve helped us grow so much that changes are ahead for our signature events. Many of you know that our Sisters on a Journey dinners have been a huge success in the communities in which they’re held. Friends and neighbors have gathered together to enjoy a wonderful evening in their community and to make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer. These events have grown so much that it’s time for a change.

We feel that the use of the word sisters in Sisters on a Journey limits us a bit. While these events still have many more women than men in attendance, we don’t ever want to limit interest and participation because of a name. To that end we have brainstormed for many months about a name that would feel more inclusive. We considered and tossed out well over 100 names and have settled on Catie’s Gathering.

To us, the name conjures up an image of a community coming around the table for a good cause – which is exactly what makes these events work. And, there weren’t many things that Catie loved more than gathering with the people she loved most – often with peanuts around the fire pit, at the beach, at home, or wherever her people happened to be.

To encourage continuity between old and new, the Catie’s Gathering logo was designed to mirror the look of the existing Catie’s Fund logo. The designs will also help folks who don’t yet know us see the relationship between Catie’s Fund and Catie’s Gathering. We are truly excited about this change and would love your support as we make the transition.

We’re also hoping to continue growing Catie’s Gathering to new locations and communities. This event is a blast and is easy to reproduce. If you’re interested, please reach out and let us know. You can email us at [email protected] . For more information on Catie’s Gathering, visit www.catiesgathering.org .

 

Ever so gratefully,

Tre’, Jenny, Izzy, and Chip

Remembering Sam

Annamarie Robb

Sam’s mom

Losing Sam was a defining moment in our family’s life. It seems like yesterday he was with us: young, vibrant, and full of life. But we have come to understand life continues even if sometimes it feels as though there is no way it should. The sad reality is Sam’s passing is more than ten years but less than twenty. As with each of the more than ten years, we continue to reflect on the life we cherish and the things we hold dear – like the twenty years we did have with Sam, but we are too often reminded of the painful impact the disease on young people in our communities and their families.
To this day, Sam’s appreciation for each day of his short-yet-full life is a resounding testament to the fragility and beauty of our human experience. We are so grateful to have this legacy to carry with us forever and to motivate our efforts in supporting pediatric cancer research. We cannot express fully our most sincere thank you to those who support our endeavors and to those who continue to cherish Sam’s memory just as much as we do. His life left an impact on our lives that is dwarfed only by the impact of his absence. Your continued support and love for Sam’s life assuages our grief.
Beyond the memory of Sam, our family is continuously heart-broken to hear of the impact the disease that took him from us is having on young people within our community and their families. For what is called a “rare” bone cancer, its mark feels all too common. This feeling motivates us even further to continue our commitment to finding a cure for these young people, who deserve a full life ahead of them. For Sam, we are grateful cancer research gave us four years of remission. As we reflect on the anniversary of Sam’s passing, we send our most heartfelt sympathies to the families that are in the grips of what we felt on this day over ten years ago. Then and now, our work, Sam’s legacy, and the legacy of every child lost to childhood cancer, is not done.
In the past twelve years, your support and our efforts for Sam’s fund within CURE have raised more than $950,000 towards childhood cancer research. Together, our work has funded five Sam Robb fellows who are providing care for children in five different states. Furthermore, we continue to support the Open Arms Program which provides meals for patients and families while in the hospital and are expanding our efforts to support the Partners in Care Counseling Program which provides counseling services to patients and families affected by childhood cancer. We look forward to the coming year with hope and optimism as we seek to surpass our one-million-dollarmark and continue to make in impact on the young people we admire and miss so dearly.
Thank you for your love and support these past twelve years; we hope that you will continue to join us as we battle childhood cancer with committed doctors searching for targeted treatments.
With Hope,
Sam, Annamarie, Liz, Caroline & Katherine

Statesboro’s Sisters on a Journey

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.

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