Childhood Cancer Stories: So You Want to Help

"Awareness" has gotten a bit of a bad rap these days.  Childhood cancer advocates, mostly parents who have, like me, the unfortunate luck to have lost a child to cancer, say that it is not enough, that action is what is needed.  It's hard to argue with the statement that we need more action.  We do.  Our kids and your kids -- those not yet diagnosed with cancer, but who will be one day -- deserve it and yes, need it.

Now here is where I will get all philosophical on you.  Before action can occur, there has to be awareness.  Folks don't just instantly pop up one day and say, "WOW.  Kids with cancer, now that's got to suck.  How can I tackle that problem?"  It just doesn't happen that way.  When childhood cancer is not on your radar, well, it's simply not on your radar.  It wasn't on my radar on March 22, 2007, but on March 23, 2007, when a pediatric ER physician spoke the words, "There is a mass in your daughter's head," to me, well then, yeah, it was on my radar.

Donna's Cancer Story, and this month's Childhood Cancer Stories:  The September Series have touched many of you.  They have made you aware of pediatric cancer, and for some, made you want to do something to help the children and families impacted by it.  The questions, "What can I do?  How can I help?" are something I am hearing regularly these days.

If awareness is the acorn of potential, the mighty oak tree that results are the actions that are a direct result of so many of you coming to know these children and families coping with pediatric cancer.  Last week, Mary Tyler Mom was the number one most read blog on ChicagoNow.  Each of the first eight posts made the most read individual posts as well.  You did that.  Not me.  YOU.

Right here, right now, I am giving you readers a standing ovation.  Thank you for spreading the word and either sharing or "liking" these posts.  That is the first step in transforming awareness into action.  But some of you want to do more.  Here are a few options and suggestions to amp up your awareness into action.

1.  Read this awesome and amazing post by fellow Cancer Mom, Mindi, What YOU Can Do to Support Childhood Cancer.  She lays out, with thirty concrete suggestions, how to start making a difference.  The options are as varied as donating blood or platelets, to picking up extra cleaning supplies and dropping them off at a Ronald McDonald House in your community.  Mindi also helps folks from getting bogged down in the harsh reality of childhood cancer.  Instead, she directs that awareness into action.  Don't miss it.

2.  Are you a runner?  Have you ever heard of the important work of Alex's Lemonade Stand?  This amazing childhood cancer charity funds millions of dollars of research by encouraging folks to sell lemonade and donate their profits to the charity, funding more research.  So damn simple, so damn successful, so damn powerful.  They have started a new initiative and it is ambitious.  They are recruiting supporters nationwide to run or walk a collective one million miles this month in their inaugural The Million Mile Run.  Watch this video, then find out more at their Million Mile Run website.  

3.  The Northwestern Mutual Foundation has partnered with Alex's Lemonade Stand on a Facebook campaign called, "Heroes for a Cure,"  focused on the sharing of a video telling the stories of Tony and Brooke, two kids dealing with cancer.  Every time the video is shared on Facebook, $2 is donated to Alex's Lemonade Stand -- up to $50K, which equals 1,000 hours of research time.  With only a click, you can be helping turn your awareness into action.  This is a beautiful video which doesn't shy away from the realities of cancer and celebrates not only the kids, but the researchers who will, someday, find better treatments and cures for our children.  Grateful thanks to Northwestern Mutual for stepping up to help our kids.

4.  St. Baldrick's, the number one private funder of pediatric cancer research,  is near and dear to my heart.  In the past eighteen months, thanks in large part to the idea of a reader, someone just like you, who wanted to do something after reading Donna's Cancer Story, Donna's Good Things has raised over $176,000 dollars for this great organization.  That figure just boggles my mind.  And that figure is as high as it is because of folks just like you and so many fellow bloggers who support these efforts.  But knowing that not all folks are up to shaving their head, they have started a new initiative called, "Do What You Want."  Host a Girls Night Out, with proceeds going to fund research.  Donate your birthday and ask for donations instead of gifts.  Have a poker tournament or a bake sale or organize a 5K -- whatever you want to help raise much needed dollars for kids with cancer.  St. Baldrick's has all the tech infrastructure you need to manage the fundraising.  And, if you really want to win my heart, you can host a "Do What You Want" fundraiser with the proceeds going towards the Donna's Good Things campaign.

5.  When an international car manufacturer comes a knockin' on your email doorstep, you best be answering.  Hyundai has a charitable arm called Hyundai Hope on Wheels.  Did you know that Hyundai owners and dealers have donated over $72 million dollars to childhood cancer research since 1998?  Seventy.  Two.  Million.  That is a whole lot of HOPE.  Donna's hospital, Lurie Children's of Chicago will receive $100,000 just this year alone.  For a major manufacturer to be so invested in what kids with cancer need most -- RESEARCH DOLLARS (not dolls, natch) -- well, let's just say this Cancer Mom is seriously looking to purchase a Hyundai for our next family car.  You can learn more about the initiatives funded at COG (Children's Oncology Group) hospitals across the country.  But short of buying a Hyundai, how can you support these efforts?  Here is how:

  • Take a look at the "Get Involved" page for Hyundai Hope on Wheels -- there are a few suggestions.
  • "Like" the Hyundai Facebook page for regular updates and share opportunities for childhood cancer throughout the month.
  • Visit the "Every Handprint Tells a Story" Facebook app for updates and share opportunities in your social media feeds throughout the month of September.
  • Register for any of the upcoming Hyundai Run 4 Hope 5K races across the country.  All funds raised will be donated to COG hospitals local to the race locations, including Miami, DC, Atlanta, Montgomery and Dallas.

So there you have it!  You wanted to know how to help, and here is your roadmap.  I use the term "roadmap" deliberately, as for so many of the kids with cancer, their doctors don't have any roadmaps to guide their treatment.  Like Donna's team, they try their best, hope for a great outcome, but their means are limited.

Researchers need more money.  There is no better way to say it.  They need more money.  With government funding at pathetic levels and shrinking, well, I am grateful to large corporations like Northwestern Mutual and Hyundai who are there to support this need, and reputable charities like St. Baldrick's and Alex's Lemonade Stand championing our kids.

Now get to it, folks.  Donate, click, like, share, plan, bake, run -- whatever it is that will turn your awareness of childhood cancer into action.  And please know that you will have the unwavering gratitude of an army of cancer families, mine included.

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