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Catie’s Fund

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.

Effingham County’s Sisters on a Journey

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.

Savannah’s Sisters on a Journey

“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.

The Incredible Progress of Sisters on a Journey

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.