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Claire’s Crew

In September 2020, Claire woke up one day complaining of leg pain. Her mother, Kathleen, noticed a sizable bump on her upper thigh and took her to their pediatrician, who determined it to be an infection. After ten days of antibiotics did nothing to reduce the size of the bump, Claire was taken for an ultrasound.

“I knew right away that something wasn’t right,” said Kathleen. “After the scan, the ultrasound technician immediately went out of the room and talked to the radiologist.”

A follow-up CT scan revealed that Kathleen was right. Claire was scheduled for immediate surgery, after which they would learn that the bump was cancer. The makeup of the tumor was consistent with b-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma. Fortunately, her bone marrow came back clean.

“Claire was lucky because we caught it very early,” shared Kathleen. “After testing on the lymph nodes, it showed her cancer to be lymphoma and not leukemia. But because it is very rare for a four-year-old child to get lymphoma and her disease is presenting like leukemia, we are doing the standard treatment for leukemia.”

The good news is that the change in diagnosis meant that Claire’s cancer was considered low risk.

Claire has responded very well to the chemotherapy. She has little nausea and is able to continue doing the things she loves – riding horses, dancing, and playing with her little brother. She also has been able to go to school, which makes her very happy. Claire should be done with her treatment in November.

Claire’s family has received tremendous support from their Dunwoody community. During September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Claire’s Crew held a walk to raise money for childhood cancer research. It was a very festive atmosphere with popsicles, bubbles, and lots of fun activities for the kids. The afternoon also raised $10,000 to fight childhood cancer!

“I can’t help her with the medical stuff,” said Kathleen. “But I have to do something. It is so important that we fund research that will lead to a cure for these kids. Claire was one of the lucky ones. When we are at the hospital, I look around and see the other kids, and my heart breaks for them.”

Though Claire will be done with her fight later this year, Claire’s Crew isn’t finished fighting for other kids with cancer. Kathleen and her family are planning a big event for 2023 and hope to raise even more than before.

We are thankful that Claire is doing so well. We are also grateful to join Claire’s Crew to fund research that will lead to better cures for kids with cancer.

The Hard Work of CURE Crew

“As a former teacher, I love working with students,” said CURE Vice President, Mandy Garola. “In 2020 we decided to form a teen council to give students an opportunity to get involved in the work that CURE does in South Georgia.”

The purpose of CURE Crew Teen Council is to offer high school juniors and seniors in the Savannah and South Georgia area the opportunity to support CURE through fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, and awareness of pediatric cancer. The 40 students on this year’s CURE Crew worked hard over the past twelve months. Here is a list of their accomplishments:

  • Sold 418 gold mailbox bows/flags
  • Secured 5 new business partners during childhood cancer awareness month
  • Planned and executed 6 gold-out athletic games and events in September
  • Planned and executed 3 dress down days benefiting CURE
  • Volunteered at 6 annual CURE events
  • Delivered Holiday Angel gifts to 12 local families that would have otherwise struggled to provide gifts for their children this year
  • Helped execute our 1st Holiday Family Drive-In Movie dressed as Who’s from Whoville
  • Secured 4 event business sponsorships and over a dozen auction items
  • Sold dozens of raffle tickets
  • Poured many glasses of tea and water at our Catie’s Gathering events in Savannah and Effingham
  • Established CURE Clubs at 2 local high schools
  • Worked with school groups to collect donations and assemble bags for patients
  • In addition they’ve created birthday and end of chemo posters, donated Halloween door decorations, Valentine’s Candy, and made valentines day cards for patients

“After our 2020 Patient Family Drive-Thru Holiday Party was fully executed with the help of CURE Crew students as volunteers, I officially proclaimed that students are better volunteers than adults,” shared Mandy. “I’m not sure if it’s that I was more comfortable telling them what to do or if they were more used to taking orders, but they were amazing and have been ever since.”

Here is a list of the 2021-2022 CURE Crew:

Kalin Bostic
Banks Bradley
Christian Brown
Clara Coppock
Annalin Crawford
Gracie Daters
Thomas Davidson
Colin Dragon
Madeline Drew
Kinsey English

Katherine Ezelle
Mya Felser
Cecilia Frey
John Thomas Gard
Cade Garola
Claire Hayes
Landyn Hildebrandt
Layla Hill
Haley Hiltzheimer
Grace Mahfet

Rylee Mills
Grace Nilson
Chloe Paulick
Zachary PInyan
Anslee Poppell
Jaslyn Price
Cheyenne Ryan
Reese Ritchie
Nicole Sakuma
Colson Slaughter

Harden Smallwood
Matthew Smith
William Smith
Joseph Stoever
Charlton Strong
Bryce Thomas
Gianni Valoze
Andrew Wadley
Jordan Washington
Olivia Wells

“It’s been our pleasure to work with these students,” said Mandy. “I hope they’ve learned some things about childhood cancer, compassion, fundraising, and serving others from this experience.”

CURE Crew is accepting applications for the 2022-23 school year through May 15th.  Rising juniors and seniors may apply by clicking the button below.

A Record-Breaking Night

Catie’s Gathering started after Jenny Wilkins lost her four-year-old daughter, Catie, to medulloblastoma. One day, Jenny’s friend, Tonya, turned to her and said out of the blue, “Let’s have a dinner and give the proceeds to CURE.”

Thanks to the overwhelming support of her Effingham community, the first Catie’s Gathering has grown into events in five cities across south Georgia and has raised more than $2.8 million. The event helps fund patient and family programs as well as CURE’s Precision Medicine Program, which focuses on individualized treatments based on each child’s genetic makeup.

This year’s event was one for the record books! Catie’s Gathering Effingham, presented by Carlson & Co., was back as an in-person event at the Clarence Morgan Gym in Springfield. Thanks to the tremendous way the community supports this event – it was an amazing night. In addition to sponsoring, Carlson & Co. helped with planning and logistics for the event and supplied tables, chairs, and the evening’s décor. Long-time CURE partners Kaufman-Heinz handled all audio-visual needs for the event.

For the first time in Effingham, there was a VIP tent for sponsors and special guests to kick the night off. Delicious appetizers and a beautiful charcuterie board, both provided by Southern Kafe on 17, and music from Lyn Avenue, set the tone for a fun time in the VIP tent. Meanwhile, guests in the main venue were checking out the tables, beautifully decorated by our hostesses, and perusing auction items while enjoying music from Tell Scarlett.

Attendees were then treated to a delicious meal from Simply Southern Catering, followed by an incredible live auction (complete with a puppy, a trip, and more being auctioned off), door prizes, and two exciting raffle drawings. Former board president for CURE Childhood Cancer, Janet Street, shared her family’s journey through childhood cancer with Cam, a young man gone far too young. While Cam’s story has a tragic ending, Janet shared about his joy despite difficulties and how her family has found a way to move forward after their incredible loss.

The event raised more than any other Catie’s Gathering event to date – an astounding $340,000!

“Effingham County was Catie’s home,” said Jenny. “Our neighbors stood by my family from day one, and the generosity of this community continues to amaze me. Every year, Tre and I are blown away at the support they give children with cancer through this event.”

Thank you, Effingham County, for your generous spirit and for coming out to enjoy a great night!

Zoe Means Life

Parents of newly diagnosed cancer patients typically have plenty of opportunities to talk to other parents who are also fighting childhood cancer. But the last two years have been anything but typical.

As a pediatric nurse, Courtney Thomas noticed her daughter’s symptoms quickly. After a visit to the doctor, Zoe was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2020, just as the world shut down.

“The pandemic started during her treatment, which added complications,” said Courtney. “But it also prevents us from getting to know other families. The family room has been closed, and most parents stay in their room during treatment. We have felt very isolated at times. It would be nice to connect with other families who understand what we are going through.”

Additionally, events that usually bring the childhood cancer community together have been canceled or held virtually. The Thomas family participated in 2021’s virtual Lauren’s Run and had a great time walking a 2k on the Silver Comet Trail (even after Zoe fell asleep.) This year, they are very much looking forward to the in-person Lauren’s Run & Picnic.

“Zoe’s name is Greek, and it means ‘life,’” explained Courtney. “So our team name is Zoe Means Life, and we are super excited to celebrate the day with CURE’s staff and other cancer families!”

A month before Zoe was diagnosed, her father, T.J., started a new job with Wren Solutions. Even though he was a brand-new employee, the company has backed him and his family in every way possible.

“The people at Wren were great from the start,” Courtney said. “He was always going to work from home. But many times, he had to work odd hours while we juggled treatment with our other two kids. They have been wonderful.”

Wren Solutions has also stepped up to support T.J. and his family by becoming a Gold Sponsor for Lauren’s Run & Picnic.

“Finding a cure for childhood cancer is an important cause for us now,” Courtney said. “It means a lot to us for them to not only support us during treatment but to stay behind us by investing in the cause that is near to our family’s hearts.”

Treatment for leukemia is very long, but Zoe is getting close to the end. She has one more spinal tap and will take her last oral chemo in June. She has done well with treatment and looking forward to ringing the bell that signifies its end. She would also love to see you at Lauren’s Run & Picnic.

Lauren’s Run & Picnic is Atlanta’s favorite day of family fun. The event has raised more than $4.8 million to fight childhood cancer over the years. But it’s not just a run. After the race, there is an over-the-top picnic filled with games, prizes, elaborate face painting, inflatables, music and dancing, arts and crafts, a full lunch, and much more. Learn more and register at laurensrun.org. Zoe will see you there!

A Party for Natalie

A Quinceañera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday that is widely celebrated throughout Latin America. Symbolically, it marks her passage from girlhood to womanhood. It is a big deal for many young ladies, and they begin planning it when they turn fourteen. But that didn’t happen for Natalie Guzman.

Natalie had been a very healthy child until she began losing weight and sleeping more often at the age of thirteen. Her pediatrician drew blood and confirmed that her labs looked normal for her age. But her weight loss continued, and she began getting stomachaches. When she noticed bruising on her body, her doctor sent her to the emergency room for more testing. It was there that Natalie was diagnosed with leukemia – just one day before her fourteenth birthday.

“Despite knowing something was wrong, you are never ready to receive news like that.” Shared her mother, Sandra. We were devastated.”

Planning for Natalie’s Quinceañera was put on hold while she began treatment.

“My first thought was, ‘am I going to die?’” said Natalie. “I was very scared because we have family members who have passed away from cancer.”

The first round of chemotherapy eliminated 97% of her cancer. The treatment was harsh, but her body responded well to it, and she began her journey to remission. Then the pandemic hit. While she was starting to feel better, it was hard to focus on planning for her 15th birthday. With stores closed and quarantines in place, it was also difficult to shop for the traditional clothes and favors. To keep Natalie safe, her family planned a drive-by Quinceañera for her.

“Girls look forward to the party for so many years. So doing it the way we had to was like putting a dream on hold because of cancer,” explained Sandra.

Natalie continued treatment as lockdowns and quarantines ended, and when the time came for her next birthday, she was able to celebrate with a wonderful Sweet 16 party! Her family pulled out all the stops and made it a beautiful day for her. An even greater celebration happened a few months later as Natalie walked out of the hospital cancer-free.

Throughout their fight, Natalie and her family clung to their faith, especially verse 10 from Isaiah 41, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Sandra remembers those days in the hospital and refers to CURE as hope for families diagnosed. She appreciates the meals they received and also very tangible help.

“My husband and I have a small business,” she explained. “But neither of us could work because of Natalie’s cancer treatments. CURE paid our mortgage for two months, which was a big relief. When the pandemic made our business very slow, CURE paid another mortgage payment. I’m so glad CURE was there to support our family.”

And Natalie is happy to be back in school – healthy and with a full head of hair.

“Being bald was hard on me as a teenage girl,” she said. “But my hair came back curly, and I like it!”

Edward and Precision Medicine

Edward Page’s cancer journey started on a Saturday morning in November 2017 while his soccer team was preparing to take on another team of four-year-olds. But instead of running onto the field, Edward didn’t want to play because his belly hurt. That day his life changed forever.

“In a few hours, we went from a stomachache to a cancer diagnosis,” said Edward’s father, Andrew. “Edward had a large mass in his abdomen that had already spread to his chest and bone marrow.”

Edward was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer in which malignant cells form from immature nerve tissue. Following the standard treatment protocol, Edward began countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, endured nine surgeries, battled through two bone marrow transplants, and entered clinical trials. Sadly, even with those extensive treatments and their awful side effects, residual cancer remained.

Both of Edward’s parents are surgeons, and his father, Andrew, specializes in abdominal cancers. As a result, Andrew not only knew the prognosis of his son’s cancer, he also understood the value of molecular testing used in precision medicine.

“Precision medicine has changed the approach for difficult to manage cancers,” Andrew explained. “The concept of targeting pathways to stop tumor growth has changed the landscape for cancer treatment, as it can be more effective and less toxic than the standard chemotherapies. Precision medicine is like shooting cancer with a sniper, as opposed to shooting the whole patient with a shotgun.”

While precision medicine has been used to diagnose and treat adult cancers for years, it is very new to children. Thanks to CURE’s investment, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta now boasts one of the nation’s leading precision medicine programs, offering this innovative treatment to children with cancer. After Edward completed years of standard treatment, which ultimately failed, he was enrolled in the program, and a sample of his tumor was sent for analysis.

“Genetic testing revealed that the relapsed cancer in his chest had a very specific mutation which was not present in the original tumor,” Andrew said. “Fortunately, the mutation has a drug that is proven to work against it.”

Finally, this drug put Edward into remission. He is now cancer-free! Every day, Edward takes a pill which targets the cancer, ideally preventing recurrence. Today, he is healthy and strong and loves to spend his time outdoors. Since he had a kidney removed as part of his cancer treatment, he had to give up soccer. He now enjoys gardening and possesses a knowledge of plants well beyond that of most eight-year-olds. His family is so grateful for the opportunity to help him plant flowers.

“If it weren’t for the use of precision medicine, I am confident that Edward would not be with us today,” said Andrew. “The collaboration between Edward’s aggressive surgeon, Dr. Clifton, combined with Edward’s forward-thinking oncologist, Dr. Cash, unquestionably saved Edward’s life. Precision medicine is the way of the future, and our family is thankful for CURE’s investment in it.”

What is Precision Medicine?

In 2017, CURE made an unprecedented $4.5 million commitment to the Aflac Cancer Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to launch the Aflac Precision Medicine Program (APMP). With this award, the Aflac Cancer Center would become one of only a small handful of pediatric cancer centers nationwide able to offer this cutting-edge treatment approach to children with cancer.

An easy way to understand precision medicine is to think of it as “personalized medicine.” Although we know that every child is unique, today’s childhood cancer treatment does not take into account the genetic differences of each child. Rather, a child’s cancer is treated according to disease type. But often, children with the same type of cancer respond differently to the same treatment. A chemotherapy which is effective for some may fail altogether for others because of the genetic differences at play. That is where personalized medicine comes in.

Over the past twenty years science has made incredible leaps in discovery by finding what is referred to as genetic barcodes – our DNA and RNA. We now understand what healthy cells look like and can often find triggers or markers in a tumor where something went wrong with a gene. By locating and isolating that problem and finding chemotherapies or other treatments proven effective against the genetic problem, doctors hope to improve survival while also minimizing exposures to toxic treatments which are not likely to work.

“There are really four outcomes when we look at genetic information taken from a child’s tumor,” explains Dr. Douglas Graham, Director of the Aflac Cancer Center. “The first is the perfect storm – we find a target that has a drug which is known to be effective against it and that drug is approved for children. We also may find a target with a matching drug that is not approved for children and would have to petition for access. The other options are not as optimistic. We may find a target with no drug known to work against it or we may find no target at all.”

The first step in the process is getting the child’s genetic information. Since July 2018, CURE has funded the genetic sequencing of more than 200 children with high risk or refractory cancers who would not have otherwise received the sequencing through another source.

 For 78% of the children sequenced, their treatment was impacted by the genetic information obtained!

CURE Childhood Cancer remains determined that precision medicine is one of the most promising methods for improving survival rates in children. And we steadfastly believe that our children deserve the best and safest options available.

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hannah Hazen is a busy young lady. As school starts back, she is jumping into JV soccer season, FCA and DECA meetings, and the student government. But with all that’s going on, she is still mindful to take the time to express thanks – and she’s got a lot to be thankful for.

Hannah’s world changed last March when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and began a very difficult chemotherapy regimen. Throughout her six-month treatment, she proved her toughness by pushing through the hardest days.

“I couldn’t avoid missing a day of school when I had a treatment,” Hannah said. “But even when I was tired or felt bad, I pushed myself. I had missed the end of my 8th-grade year and was determined to be at high school as much as possible.”

Her actual treatment is only a small part of the story. When Hannah looks back at 2021, she will mostly remember the amount of love and support she got from family, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. Early in her treatment, Covid-19 forced CURE to hold Lauren’s Run & Picnic virtually. So friends and neighbors decided to form Team Hannah to raise money in her honor. They set a fundraising goal of $2500 but raised more than $13,000 in the end. On race day, about 75 people gathered in her front yard and ran a 5k with her.

While she is incredibly thankful for the support of CURE, her gratitude goes way beyond fundraising.

“Everyone has been so great to me,” she said. “It was humbling to have so many neighbors, students and school staff encouraging me. I wore a wig one time, and it just didn’t feel like me. But no one has ever made me feel bad about being bald. I am confident in my baldness, but I am also glad that I’ve got a little fuzz growing back now.”

Her neighborhood even surprised her with a parade after she finished her treatment!

“I’m so excited to be cancer-free,” Hannah shared. “And I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.”

With that in mind, Hannah wanted to thank everyone but couldn’t figure out how to do it without leaving anyone out. So she decided to write a note that her mom could put on Facebook. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Everyone,

Thank you so much. I have received so much love and support while going through this very tough time. I am so thankful for all the lovely, kind, and beautiful gifts and letters of encouragement. Reading through all of the letters gave me the strength I have needed to fight. To all the people who have come to my rosaries, I thank you for praying with me. And everyone who has provided us with a meal. I am so thankful. Without all of this love and generosity I could never have done it. It is crazy how many people care about me and my family over the whole world!

With lots of love,

Hannah

Hannah learned a lot last year. But she’s also teaching us all a good lesson in gratitude.

 

 

Catching Up with Elena

Elena Tate first learned about childhood cancer in 2004 when her younger sister, Olivia, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The two girls love each other and share a lot of things. But Elena had no way of knowing that just a few years later, her back and leg pain would lead to a cancer diagnosis of her own. You heard that right – both sisters were diagnosed with pediatric cancer.

After Olivia’s successful brain surgery, Elena fought hard for two and a half years and was declared cancer-free. Unfortunately, she relapsed less than six months off treatment and was back in the fight. Early into this second battle, Elena’s body was not responding to chemo, and doctors were running out of treatment options. As her medical team searched the country for a clinical trial, a new one opened here in Atlanta. Elena had to have nine intense days of chemo and radiation to prepare her body for a bone marrow transplant. On July 25, 2012, Elena received that lifesaving transplant and has been cancer-free ever since!

“I definitely learned that I had to persevere,” Elena said. “But out of adversity or difficult times, you can always turn a negative situation into a positive one.”

A year later, while reading CURE’s newsletter, her mother, Christy, read about a clinical trial CURE funded in which only one child participated. She realized immediately that Elena was that child.

“A brilliant doctor had an idea to use an old drug in a new way, and he was given a chance to explore this idea because of funding provided by CURE,” Christy said, “Because CURE said yes, Elena is alive today!”

Elena doesn’t remember all of the details of her treatment, but it definitely altered her story and what she plans to do in the future. Last December, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgia Gwinnett College. During her time in college, Elena was the president of the psychology club, a Psi Chi International Honors Society member, an orientation leader, and a research assistant. She is now starting the process of researching graduate schools and plans to enroll in the fall.

After being a counselor for several summer camps, Elena knew that she wanted to work with kids. Because of the amount of time she spent in treatment and staff that made an impression on her, she considered becoming a child life specialist. But after deliberation, she decided she would like to work outside of a hospital setting. Elena’s experience has given her a profound empathy for children – especially younger children who sometimes don’t have a voice and cannot speak up for themselves. So she is planning on becoming an elementary school counselor.

“I want to work with the elementary school-age children,” Elena explained. “That is the age when they are in that stage of learning and developing, and we can help shape their lives in a positive way.”

Our staff has known and loved Elena and her family for a long time. We are proud to know the young women that she and Olivia have become. After a rough start, they both have the brightest of futures ahead!

The Empty Chair

Sadness over the loss of a loved one is always magnified during the holidays. This is especially true for a first Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holidays are synonymous with families gathering. So, if someone you love has died, this holiday may well be a struggle.

Our son Eric died many years ago, just a month before Thanksgiving. Our older son was still healing from the same accident as the holiday arrived, so there was no possibility of travel to be with extended family. We would be at home together. It was a quiet morning on Thanksgiving Day as the meal was prepared. Then early that afternoon, we sat down to eat – just the three of us, at a table for four. There was his chair. Eric’s chair. His place was as empty as our hearts were filled with grief.

If you will be grieving over these holidays, let me offer some guidance about how to handle this season intentionally and thoughtfully.

Grieve early You will need to mourn going into the holidays. The pain will not subside without it. In fact, it will become even more intense. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to arrive and be swept away with your grief. Be open to how you feel as the season approaches.

Mourn fully as each wave of grief comes over you. Holiday grief denied maximizes the likelihood of post-holiday depression. Give your grief a voice. Cry it out. Talk it out. Write it out (if you journal, and I encourage it.)

Plan aheadDo as few obligatory engagements as possible. Schedule your holidays in ways that will work for you. Keep the traditions that you like, drop those you don’t, and add any new ones that may be good for you now. This year needs to be your holiday. This one needs to be about you. Design it your way without a hint of guilt.

Take excellent care of yourselfboth now and throughout the holiday season. Do and attend what you want to do and attend, and do not do or attend what you do not want to do or attend.

Working through all the emotions of these first holidays takes so much energy, so engage in whatever recharges and replenishes you. Make time for yourself. Get rest.

Be near to those you love – Plan to surround yourself through the holidays with those who are good for you and enrich you. Be with the people who give you life and energy. Graciously avoid those who don’t.

Identify the one or two special people in your inner circle with whom you can be radically open. Let them know you may need a chat or two with them over the holidays. Then, whenever you need to, call them and pour out your heart.  Do not think for a moment you are burdening them. You are not. You are honoring them by inviting them into the inner sanctuary of your heart.

Tell your family and friends what you need Having decided that this year it’s alright for it to be about you, then communicate clearly to those closest to you what you need. Let them know your preferences for the upcoming holidays. Those who love you will appreciate your candor and direction. They do love you and want to know how.

This will, of course, be your family’s first holiday without their parent or grandparent or brother as well. Ask them in advance how they are feeling and if there is anything special they will need as you begin planning.

Share your memories as a family togetherAs you sit around the table for that Thanksgiving dinner, instead of ignoring what everyone is thinking, give it a voice. Remember the good times. Retell the stories. Stories are told and events remembered about someone so dear. Laughter is heard. A tear or two quietly sneak down someone’s cheek. And out of it all – the telling and the remembering – you will have honored his or her memory in a most personal way and worked through a bit more of your grief.

Have realistic expectationsThis won’t be a Currier & Ives holiday. It will be different. It will be tough. Anticipate times of deep sadness. Depression is sometimes experienced when expectations that are too high collide with reality. If this is your first year without someone you dearly loved, know that it will be difficult. Don’t set your bar too high and be disappointed. Remember the formula: reality divided by expectations equals happiness. Keep your expectations realistic.

 

When I ran marathons, I didn’t set the bar too high. My goal was just to make it through to the finish.  Let that be your goal – to have made it through…  to have made it through your first holiday season, to have honored his life, and to have savored the company of those you dearly love.

 

Written by Ron Greer, Pastoral Counseling Service
Peachtree Road United Methodist Church

When Cancer Comes Home

As a young lawyer, Roger Weitkamp had a co-worker whose experience with pediatric cancer led him to volunteer with CURE and ultimately serve on its board of directors. But nothing prepared him for when cancer came home.

“As the father of two little boys, I saw Kristin dealing with her son’s cancer diagnosis, and I couldn’t imagine going through that,” Roger said. “It made me want to do something to help.”

Roger and his wife, Cheri, decided to volunteer at Lauren’s Run and the CURE Picnic, and they kept volunteering whenever possible. His family also provided gifts for families as a part of CURE’s Holiday Angel’s program. His friend, Kristin, eventually became CURE’s CEO, and even after Roger and his family moved to London for business, they continued to support CURE from afar.

His family spent three years in London, where he and his football-loving sons, Jake and Jared, even learned to love British “football.” Roger returned to the US in 2014, eventually returning to a previous employer, tax consulting firm DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc. (DMA), as general counsel.

As he and his family planned their return to the States, he let Kristin know that he would like to get more involved with CURE. Presented with that opening, Kristin encouraged Roger to consider joining CURE’s board of directors.

“I was actually quite surprised by her request,” Roger recalled. “I didn’t have first-hand experience with pediatric cancer and didn’t feel like I could understand what these families go through. Without that perspective, I didn’t know if I could do justice to board service.”

Kristin persisted, and Roger agreed, eventually serving five years on the board. With his legal background, he got involved in the governance of the organization and helped to revamp its bylaws. During that time, CURE experienced dramatic growth and furthered its support of families.

“Meeting families while volunteering gave me a little peek into the childhood cancer world,” Roger said. “While I was serving dinner in the hospital one night, I helped a teenager back to his room and saw that he was doing math homework. When I got home, my teenage son, Jake, was sitting at the kitchen table doing his math homework. It really struck me that night how random and indiscriminate childhood cancer is. That kid in the hospital could just as easily have been my kid.”

Ultimately, it was. In 2019, Jake (then 19) discovered a lump and mentioned it to his doctor during the annual physical required to play his sophomore year of football for Berry College. After a series of tests, Jake was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had successful surgery and was deemed cancer-free. Jake is now in the middle of his senior year of college and is still playing and loving football. This year he is excited to play alongside his not-so-little brother, Jared.

“Jake had a suspicious and alarming scan recently that has doctors baffled, and he may require further treatment. But for the time-being, it is just something that we are monitoring,” Roger said. “Of course, we feel very fortunate that Jake’s cancer was detected and treated early. But the fear of it coming back will always hang over our heads.”

Earlier this year, Roger was in a meeting with DMA’s CEO and marketing and communications leaders, where they talked about increasing and consolidating the company’s charitable efforts across their offices in the US, Canada, and Europe. After his long involvement with CURE, it was an easy choice for Roger to advocate for CURE to become DMA’s primary charitable partner. His inside knowledge of the organization brought credibility. Marry that with the mission, and everyone at DMA quickly got on board. In September, DMA announced that they had adopted CURE Childhood Cancer as their company-wide charitable cause.

“The DMA family is a generous and caring group, and our company culture reflects that,” Roger said. “CURE and its mission are a natural fit. Although we’re just in the infancy of our efforts to conquer childhood cancer with CURE, we’ve already seen our people come together for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September and for the upcoming Holiday Angels program. Knowing how generous and committed the 600+ members of the DMA family are, it’s going to be fun to see how big an impact DMA can make in its support of CURE.”

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