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Surviving and Thriving

In 2010, Rachel Wang was excited to start first grade. She loved reading, arts and crafts and enjoyed every day until early October when her parents noticed that she looked very tired and pale. They thought she might be wearing herself out with her new schedule but decided to take her to the doctor anyway.

“When we got to the pediatrician’s office, Rachel’s hemoglobin was so low that we were sent right away to the hospital,” recalled Rachel’s mother, Amy. “The next day, our sweet Rachel was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”

Rachel had a port put in her chest to administer chemotherapy, and her treatment began right away. She went into remission quickly but had to endure the standard treatment, which lasted two and a half years.

“Rachel was strong girl and didn’t have major side effects,” said Amy. “When she wasn’t in the hospital, she was in school and seemed to feel pretty good. We know that we were very lucky.”

During that time, Rachel’s community and school were incredibly supportive. Rachel liked to wear sparkly hats to cover her bald head, and all of the girls in her class decided to wear the same hats so that she wouldn’t feel left out. Her teacher made sure the boys were able to encourage her also and got them “fight back” camouflage hats to wear! Even though it was a difficult time, Rachel has a lot of good memories of all the notes friends wrote to her and the support she received.

“Rachel stayed as active as possible during her treatment,” Amy said. “She always enjoyed sports and she started to focus on tennis at that time.”

As it turns out, she is very good at it. She just finished her junior year and played for the North Gwinnett High School team that won its region and advanced to the state playoffs. Rachel was undefeated this season and recently received the Al Parker Award for Junior Player of the Year by USTA Georgia. She also excels off the court. She won the Positive Athlete Regional Award this year and has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award each year since sixth grade for performing more than 200 hours of community service each year.

“Rachel wants to give back and serve others,” said Amy. “She has been very active in school and has volunteered with organizations that assist children with cancer. Rachel has worked to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer and plans to continue to do so in the future.”

 

 

June is National Cancer Survivor Month and an opportunity for all cancer survivors to celebrate their milestones and recognize those who have supported them along the way. Our goal at CURE is that every child diagnosed has the chance to live out their dreams like Rachel, and we are thrilled to see her thriving!

Crucial Members of the Team

While we rightfully acknowledge and applaud the doctors and nurses who care for the precious patients we serve, they aren’t the only members of the healthcare team who work so hard to return children to health. This month, we celebrate two important members of the team who don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

March is Social Work Month, and a social worker is an essential resource for a family fighting pediatric cancer. Kristin Frazier has been a social worker at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for 11 years. Her focus is on children fighting leukemia or lymphoma, and she works with families from the moment of diagnosis.

“Our primary role is to provide emotional support,” Kristin said. “It’s hard to think clearly when you’ve just been told your child has cancer. So I will visit with them often in the beginning to act as a bridge between the medical team and the family to make sure they understand the plan.”

Balancing life and cancer treatment can be a nightmare, so the second aspect of the social workers’ job is logistical. Families have to quickly learn how to manage things such as school for the patient and siblings, insurance, work, and finances. Social workers connect families with resources needed to cope with all of these newfound pressures. CURE is one of those resources.

“The cost of cancer treatment is so high it can affect a family of any income level,” said Kristin. “CURE is responsive to any need we identify, from emergency financial assistance to lodging and counseling. Being able to reduce the stress of a family in treatment is huge.”

Kristin said the ultimate win in her job is seeing a child finish treatment and ring the bell. But even during tough days, there are things that encourage her.

“Seeing a child who pushes through things that are really hard or watching a family come together to make difficult decisions is gratifying.”

March is also National Child Life Month. A child life specialist wears many hats in the patient journey. Becca Doobrow has been a child life specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for four years. As a youngster, she raised money for children fighting cancer and knew she wanted her life’s work to be in pediatric oncology.

According to Becca, there are five main roles that the child life specialist plays.

  1. Decrease anxiety and fear when a patient is admitted and to help normalize the hospital setting through play and therapeutic activities.
  2. Help children cope through medical procedures and provide a distraction as the procedure gets started.
  3. Make a child feel empowered by explaining their diagnosis and treatment in terms they can understand.
  4. Help connect siblings throughout the hospital experience, which has been incredibly difficult during the pandemic.
  5. Provide bereavement and legacy-building opportunities for parents should the worst happen.

“Watching a child you’ve been working with since diagnosis ring the bell is incredibly fulfilling,” Becca said. “But it is very rewarding when I help a child who is really scared about a procedure cope with their anxiety.”

Ultimately, her goal is for the patient to gain the skills to cope with procedures and treatments on their own. Even if the child can cope, there is still room for a child life specialist.

“I try to be a consistent part of the patient’s treatment,” Becca said. “I want to do one fun little thing with all of my patients every day to bring them up.”

There are many members of the team that make sick children well. This month, we recognize and thank the social workers and child life specialists who work with the patients and families we serve.

Get After Leukemia

Hank Steed’s college career started off with a bang. Early in his second semester, Hank began suffering from a headache. When it lingered a couple of days, he decided he should get a COVID test. As the pain intensified, he went to an urgent care facility that sent him on to the emergency room.

Hank attends Mercer University in Macon, which is about two and a half hours away from his hometown of Bowdon, Georgia. Since he was alone, his father, Noah, was advising text while he waited to see what was wrong.

“The hospital ran a few tests and everything came back okay except they told him his white blood cell count was elevated,” said Noah. “While he was waiting for more results, he got word that his COVID test was negative. At that point I got in the car to be with him because I knew we were looking at something more serious than a headache.”

As soon as Noah arrived at the hospital, a hematologist sat he and Hank down and told them that Hank had t-cell leukemia. Due to his age, Hank was transferred to an adult hospital in Atlanta to begin treatment. But this form of leukemia is typically considered a childhood disease. So on the advice of their family doctor, Hank and his family opted to accept an offer to transfer to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“It’s a little weird being in a children’s hospital,” laughed Hank. “But because of COVID, I would have had to go through treatment alone at the adult hospital. I don’t think I could have handled that. Sometimes it’s nice to be treated like a kid, and this is definitely one of those times.”

As he started treatment, the family moved from shock into fight posture.

“I knew right away that I wanted to get after leukemia, and not just my case,” said Hank. “I want to get after it for every kid.”

As friends and neighbors asked how they could help, Hank decided to raise money by selling t-shirts. His hometown community and friends in college bought more than 400 of them, raising $3000. Since he met CURE while being served meals in the hospital, Hank planned on donating the money until his father had another idea.

“I explained the concept of leverage to Hank,” Noah said. “I told him that he could donate that money, or he could use it to make more money by issuing a challenge to our community to match their donations up to $3000.”

Hank’s fraternity brothers & little sisters

So Hank issued the challenge and reached his goal almost immediately!

“It’s been insane,” Hank said. “We keep getting donations from friends, family, schools, and even complete strangers. Our community has been great. Just seeing all the love and support we are getting is overwhelming at times.”

Hank finally got to go home after his initial hospital stay. He had to withdraw from school because of his diagnosis and has a long treatment ahead. His treatment calls for intensive chemo for 6-8 months, but he is hopeful that he’ll be well enough to re-enroll in school in the fall. Until then, he’ll have some time to work on plans to beat leukemia for good!

If you want to help Hank get after leukemia, you can donate by texting “hankstrong” to 44321.

Ring the Bell Twice

When children get to the end of cancer treatment, ringing the bell to signify its end is perhaps the most joyous celebration of their lives. That wasn’t necessarily the case with 13-year-old Lily Stuckey. For her, ringing the bell after two and a half years of harsh treatment was a mixture of joy and sadness.

At the very end of 2017, Lily had been sick and had some visible knots on her neck. Even stranger, when a rare dusting of snow fell in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, Lily didn’t have the energy to go outside to play.

“I honestly thought she was being lazy,” recalled her mother, Kelli. “It seemed like she was setting me up to try to stay out of school when the snow cleared.”

But a fever took her to the local emergency room where doctors discovered Lily had leukemia. She started chemotherapy right away and was plagued by “rare” side effects.  She lost weight on steroids, suffered with neuropathy in her feet and hands, and spent a month in intensive care because of brain swelling. Fortunately, Lily went into remission very early and stayed there, although the harsh side effects of treatment continued.

While Lily was plodding through treatment, another young lady in the same town was also diagnosed with leukemia. Described as sassy and spunky, Kylie Shiell became a friend almost immediately. Kylie and Lily hit it off so well, in fact, they even plotted to ensure they could get chemo infusions at the same time. As their friendship grew, they became a force to be reckoned with.

“When Lily got admitted, the doctor put on her chart that the girls couldn’t see each other because they both had fevers,” Kylie’s mother, Ashley, said. “When the doctor did rounds, the girls stood on either side of the hallway and cornered him to complain about his attempts to keep them apart.”

Lily and Kylie talked every day about life and their cancer journeys. In fact, they laughed about the hospital’s privacy rules.

“One time, we were in the room together and the doctor didn’t want to talk about me in front of Kylie,” Lily shared. “I told him, ‘You know we tell each other everything, so you might as well say what you’ve got to say.’”

Kylie overcame everything cancer threw at her. But an infection caused bouts of extreme pain and ultimately took her life on November 13, 2019. Lily was devastated and wrote a moving letter that was read at Kylie’s memorial service.

“She was the only one who understood what I was going through,” Lily said. “I miss her every day.”

When Lily celebrated the end of treatment, she rang the bell not only for herself, but also for her friend who she will carry in her heart forever. Of course, Kylie’s family was there to watch and celebrate the milestone with Lily.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” Ashley said. “We’re all family now.”

 

 

Be the Light

Emily Riedinger and Caroline Paris have been best friends since the fifth grade. While they met in school around many other kids, they quickly became inseparable and have been ever since. Somewhere along the line, they saw a video in which a girl talked of how inspired she was after finding ways to give back to her community. Both girls were touched and immediately began forming plans to do charitable work.

At the time, Caroline’s older sister Natalie was finishing up her leukemia treatment. The girls felt a natural draw toward helping children with cancer and, at Natalie’s suggestion, looked into what they could do for CURE.

“We found out we could assemble Boredom Buster Bags that would help kids during long hospital stays,” Emily said. “I mean, I get bored just being at home sometimes. I can’t imagine how bored I would get if I had to be in the hospital for days on end.”

So the two of them engaged their community and put together bags full of games and activities to entertain a child in the hospital for treatment. They got such great joy out of making these bags that they did it again the following year.

“When she was in treatment, Natalie got several of these bags from CURE,” Caroline said. “They really helped her through some long and difficult days.”

Making Boredom Buster Bags has now become a tradition, and the girls have also made snack bags, toiletry bags, and more. The past few years, they got their local Target, Kroger, and CVS involved to make bags and donate supplies. In December, Target on Windward Parkway put together forty bags as an employee project and added these to its donation.

Since they had been inspired by the video they saw in middle school, Emily and Caroline wanted to share the joy of giving back with kids their age. That led them to a new endeavor to raise funds – t-shirts that said, “[be the light.]”

“By buying t-shirts, the kids got something out of it,” Caroline said. “It makes people feel like they’re a part of something big when they see others wearing them around school.”

While they’ve been inseparable for seven years, they’ll soon be going different directions. Caroline plans to study to become a physical therapist at Berry College, and Emily hopes to enroll in University of Georgia’s child psychology program. Unsurprisingly, giving back plays a part in Emily’s future plans.

“I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was young, and there was someone who really impacted me,” Emily said. “I hope that once I have my degree, I can help others like I was helped.”

We truly appreciate these two young ladies’ dedication to making hospital stays a little easier for the children we serve. They are certainly a “light” and good example for all of us.

 

Lendmark Financial Services Climbs On

Take away the stadium stairs, the track, and all the fun of Lendmark Financial Services’ annual Climb to CURE and you might think the event would fold altogether. Yet it did not. Despite the fact that the event looked drastically different this year due to COVID -19, the 2020 climb was the most successful to date. Its overwhelming success is a credit to the company’s leadership, teamwork, passion, and determination to make a difference.

Bobby Aiken and Chip Madren

The Climb to CURE is the brainchild of Bobby Aiken, CEO of Lendmark Financial Services, who watched one of his childhood friends struggle through his son’s cancer treatment. Chip Madren’s fight became an inspiration to Bobby.

“I watched Chip literally fight for his life and win,” he said. “Chip’s fight has made me a better person and has positively impacted many, many lives.”

Being an avid stadium runner, Bobby decided to combine his love of running stadium stairs and his passion for helping children with cancer. He created a company-wide fundraiser – the Climb to CURE. With his own commitment to contributing to better outcomes for children with cancer, Bobby inspired employees, partners, and vendors to join the fight. That was five years ago. Nationwide, Lendmark employees and partners gave and hosted mini-fundraisers. The effort culminated with an in-person stadium climb involving 200-300 people the first four years. Altogether, those efforts raised an amazing $1,843,000.

This year’s COVID-19 requirements of social distancing and limited gatherings forced Lendmark to change the format of the Climb to CURE. Instead of the traditional in-person stadium event, they created a seven-day virtual step competition and fundraising challenge.

“While the local offices missed the fun and spirit of getting together, this year’s format allowed branches from coast-to-coast to fully participate. Being virtual was a different dynamic that spawned a lot of creativity,” said Kelsey Treadwell, Lendmark’s Marketing Manager.

Lendmark has 366 branches across the country, and many of them raised money in traditional ways. But some held unique fundraisers perfectly suited to this unique year. In Princeton, Kentucky, the branch formed a partnership with an Auntie Anne’s truck which donated proceeds of pretzel sales. The Pueblo, Colorado branch organized a motocross race complete with sponsors and merchandise which raised $8,000. Employees in the Clarksburg, West Virginia branch hosted a bingo night. Even though they had to limit attendance to half-capacity, they were able to raise the highest total of any branch at $11,000!

The company also stepped up in a big way by creating an incentive raffle. For every $100 a branch raised, they received a raffle ticket. The winning branch received quite a prize: all employees get to attend the company’s Choice Awards next year in Scottsdale, Arizona. Lendmark’s partners and vendors continued their support of the company’s efforts by giving generously. To culminate the event, Lendmark held a virtual “climb”. Employees laced up their tennis shoes and walked 13,186,408 steps, totaling more than 6,500 miles. Incredibly, the Climb to CURE raised a record-breaking $617,195!

The funds raised by Lendmark support CURE’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which involves precise gene-based treatment. CURE is leading the way in advancing this innovative therapy. Our work would not be possible without Lendmark’s support.

“People want to know where their money is going, which is why we focus on precision medicine,” said Ethan Andelman, Lendmark’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’ve embraced CURE and their Precision Medicine Initiative in the hopes that it becomes the first line of treatment for kids with cancer.”

In October, CEO Bobby Aiken made a stunning announcement: Lendmark’s goal for the 2021 Climb to CURE is $1 million! With the passion and dedication they’ve shown, Lendmark has proven there is no mountain they won’t climb for kids fighting cancer.

A Rain on Parched Hearts

Anna Hanger was an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years and generous beyond words. In June 2003, Anna was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her treatment was long and hard, and she suffered many complications which caused her to be hospitalized for the better part of a year. While she achieved remission in 2004, it was short lived, and her cancer returned just months later. Doctors told her family there was no further treatment for Anna and urged her parents to quickly take a Make-A-Wish trip due to Anna’s poor prognosis and their concern that her quality of life would begin to decline quickly.

Anna and her parents did take a “final” trip. Anna was scheduled to have surgery two days after they returned. Prior to surgery Anna had an MRI. With tears in her eyes, Anna’s doctor shared the incredible results: Anna’s tumor was shrinking. Anna’s tumor continued to shrink over the next year. Although she remained cancer-free for many years, Anna faced several challenges in her young life.

No one would have blamed Anna if she became sad and angry as a result of her limitations and very serious challenges caused by the brain cancer and treatment. But that just wasn’t Anna. From the time she was diagnosed and received an outpouring of love and support, including gifts and cards from family and friends, Anna became very aware of the other children at the hospital who were not getting the same kind of support. It touched Anna deeply and was very hard for her to accept. In spite of the fact that Anna was almost completely deaf, had severe scoliosis from radiation treatments, significant balance issues, loss of feeling on one side of her face, and many other permanent disabilities, she became obsessed with finding a way to help the other children with cancer. The idea of Anna’s Angel Fund was born.

When people asked what they could do for her or what gifts they could bring her, Anna suggested they make a donation to her Angel Fund instead.

The Angel Fund gave Anna a way to help the children who touched her heart and also became something positive for her to focus on while facing her own battles every day. Anna maintained this fund for years, and of course, she insisted that all of her financial aid and gifts be made anonymously. Over the years, Anna raised and gave away more than $600,000 to children and families whose lives had been devastated by pediatric cancer. Anna found joy every day in making her gift of life count for other children. The fund was eventually retired, but Anna never stopped caring about and working to make life better for children with cancer.

“Through the generosity of its supporters, Anna’s Angel Fund will be a much-needed rain on their terribly parched hearts.”

In June 2019, Anna’s cancer returned, and she passed away in August 2020. Her parents, Larry and Lisa, recently faced their first Thanksgiving without their precious daughter. They drew on her grateful spirit and generous heart to get through.

“Throughout Anna’s life, and especially during her battle with cancer, we’ve expressed just how precious it has been to embrace gratitude,” Lisa shared. “Even now as we face the hardest days of our lives and struggle to learn to live without Anna, gratitude and grace sustain us.”

It is in that same spirit that her family has revived Anna’s Angel Fund as a Named Fund of CURE. All funds received will be directed towards CURE’s patient and family support programs.

“Reviving Anna’s Angel Fund is what Anna would want,” Lisa said. “Donations to the fund are directed toward CURE’s patient and family support programs because families fighting cancer are trapped in thoughts of mounting bills, loneliness, and fear of what the future holds. Through the generosity of its supporters, Anna’s Angel Fund will be a much-needed rain on their terribly parched hearts. In that way, our sweet Anna will still be making life better for children with cancer and their families.”

A gift to Anna’s Angel Fund will help to continue her legacy of caring for and helping families of children with cancer.

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Cancer for Christmas

My wife sat at her laptop furiously compiling the lists for our four girls. She checked it once, then again while travelling to website after website scouring the internet for the best price and delivery. Items were added to baskets and carts checked out at such a frantic pace that I literally felt a warmth emanate from the credit card in my back pocket. Shopping at a fever pitch – Christmas delivered in two days or less. Not like most years, where she disappears for hours on end to find the perfect gift at the mall. She didn’t have time for that because we got cancer for Christmas.

We didn’t ask for it. It wasn’t circled in a catalog or written in red crayon. No one sat on Santa’s lap and begged for it. No, cancer just showed up unannounced and took our year away. So rather than spending quality time with each of the girls to weigh their enormous wants against our limited budget as in years past, my wife spent Saturday morning hunting and pecking under great duress. Do they have the right size? Will it be delivered on time? Is that really something she will use, or should we just give her cash?

At some point during the madness, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She paused to consider. Her eyes got red and her mouth failed her. She didn’t answer, but I knew. I knew what she wanted the second I asked the question. It was the only thing either of us wanted.

We wanted our baby to stop hurting. We wanted her to stop having to face treatments that made her sick and waste away. We wanted her legs to work. We wanted her hair to grow back so people wouldn’t stare at her.

We wanted to give cancer back!

But giving cancer back wasn’t an option for us that year, so we worked hard to navigate cancer treatment and the holidays together. Did you get cancer for Christmas? From our experience, here are five things you can do to make your family’s holiday season as bright as possible.

  • Keep as many holiday traditions as you can. Much loved traditions remind us of better times when the current situation is not the way we would want it.
  • Take cues from your little patient. If they are ready to celebrate, celebrate hard. If they need to rest, accommodate that.
  • Find a balance. Your other children are hurting too, but they need and deserve to have as much normalcy as they can. It is a tough and stressful job to find a balance that allows everyone to have the best holiday possible. But it can be done.
  • Be open and get input. If you can find out what is most important to each family member, no one has to lose the things they love best about the holidays.
  • Find joy wherever you can. Whether in the giving of special gifts or time spent together, there is always joy to be found if you seek it out.

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis during December certainly puts a damper on holiday spirit. But it doesn’t have to end it altogether. Although it may seem impossible, if you are intentional, you and your family can still have a wonderful holiday.

Catie’s Fund

Making a Difference Through Community

Effingham County resident, Catie Wilkins was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor on her first birthday. Catie fearlessly fought her cancer, but the chemotherapy compromised her immune system so severely that she succumbed to a common virus before she reached her fifth birthday. In response to this tragedy, a special community has formed that is making a meaningful impact in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Effingham County sits on the Savannah River and while it has grown, it still boasts the small-town feel of its agricultural heritage. It is a place the Wilkins family is proud to call home. In the aftermath of their tragic loss, they knew Catie would want them to help other families, so they founded a Named Fund at CURE in her honor.

“Catie’s treatment was hampered by a lack of available options,” Jenny said. “There has been little research in treating childhood cancers, and our family felt that this needed to change.”

Their community embraced Catie’s Fund from the beginning. This year, the fund surpassed an incredible milestone by raising more than $2 million since its inception. This wouldn’t have been possible without people like James Carlson.

James owns Carlson & Company, and while he has no direct tie to childhood cancer, he has seen local families struggle while going through treatment. He and his company are actively involved in the Catie’s Gathering dinners, the primary fundraisers for Catie’s Fund, and donate event space, tents, and food.

“I’ve watched Catie’s Gathering evolve from hostesses using paper plates and plastic forks to using fine china and silverware,” James laughed. “I’m proud to be a part because of the impact it allows CURE to have in our community.”

The schools in Effingham County have been a huge part of the success of Catie’s Fund. The leadership at Springfield Elementary School wanted to impress upon their students the value of making a difference.

“We had a student who fought cancer, and we wanted to give the kids ways to help,” said teacher, Allison Brand. “Through dress-down days, coin drives, and other fundraisers, we’ve been able to contribute a lot of money. It’s great to see the kids really get into helping other kids.”

Apryl Lee attended a Catie’s Gathering event and felt the need to pitch in. Apryl founded a local SLAM (Sweat Like A Mother) group. This is a community of mothers and their children with a goal of fitness and health. While they celebrate their healthy children, she has used her forum to raise awareness and money for Catie’s Fund.

“I wanted to set an example for my children,” Apryl said. “I want them to know that we do what we can, when we can, to help others.”

Being next door, adding a Catie’s Gathering dinner in Savannah was a natural progression that became a reality in 2013 when Mandy Garola attended the Effingham event while her daughter, Cora, was in treatment. Seven years later, the Savannah Catie’s Gathering continues to thrive and has been supported by individuals and businesses, such as Coastal Electric, which has become the event’s title sponsor.

Thanks to the efforts of friends like Jody Polk, the Catie’s Fund community spread even further. Jody’s daughter, Anna Hays, is a leukemia survivor, and five years ago, Jody brought a Catie’s Gathering dinner to Statesboro. After the death of a local child, Morgan Frison, Jody spoke of what motivates her.

“Morgan’s life held such beautiful potential,” Jody said. “Morgan and children like her are the reason that I will continue to raise funds for CURE and push for less harsh treatments created specifically for children.”

Likewise, longtime friend of the Wilkins family, Angel Shurling, started a Catie’s Gathering event in her hometown of Bryan County four years ago.

“There were two children in our community who were diagnosed with cancer,” Angel said. “Every heart was open to them, and people wanted to make a difference. Catie’s Gathering gave them that chance.”

Thanks to their amazing and ever-growing community, the Wilkins family, Catie’s Fund, and all those involved are making a huge difference in the lives of children fighting cancer today and those yet to be diagnosed. It has become a beautiful legacy for a little girl taken too soon.

To learn more about Catie’s Fund and Catie’s Gathering events

CLICK HERE

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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