Connor’s Heroes:  The Journey Continues

A Message from Lisa Goodwin, Founder and Executive Director (and Connor's mom)

When we started Connor’s Heroes in 2006, right after Connor finished his treatment for leukemia, we had big goals of filling the gaps in support services for local families who were battling childhood cancer. We especially wanted to provide support to families who didn’t already have it. We also had a deep desire to bring pediatric cancer research to Richmond. Twelve years later, our nonprofit has evolved and matured into an organization that is providing direct support to 100 families a year, while leading the charge in pediatric cancer research here in Richmond with funding from the Connor's Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund and the Jamie Hess Fund.

I believe it is now time to turn over the reins of the Executive Director position. I am happy to share with you that Celia Tetlow will be the next Executive Director of Connor’s Heroes.  I can’t think of anyone better to help take our organization into its next phase of development. Celia has been involved with Connor‘s Heroes for over eight years and currently serves as the Vice Chair of our Board and Chair of the Development Committee. She may look familiar to you because she has chaired the Heroes Art Ball Committee for several years and continues to lead our monthly art sessions. She is a fundraising professional with an intense passion for our mission. 

Of course, I will always be a Founder of this organization. After all, it's named after my son and the heroes who were there for my family. I will continue to serve as a member of its Board of Directors. Much like Connor, who is a sophomore in high school, I helped grow Connor's Heroes, “my baby,“ through preschool and into adolescence. Now it’s ready to go off to college. It’s time to send it off into the world without me constantly by its side, but always knowing that I am right there ready to hold its hand whenever needed.  

As many of you know, I was a full-time environmental attorney at Hirschler Fleischer when Connor was diagnosed in 2001. While I have continued to practice law in a part-time role over the years, I am feeling called to return to my full-time practice. I am confident that I leave Connor‘s Heroes in the most capable hands with Celia and our dedicated board.  Our staff (Erin, Fran, and Ceci) also are thrilled to have Celia transition into this role.

I am excited for this new chapter of my life as well as the life of Connor’s Heroes. I look forward to staying involved, and hope with all of my heart that all of you will as well.  Celia will begin working as Executive Director on April 18.  I will provide support through a transition time into early May and then will begin working at Hirschler Fleischer.

If you have any questions, you may feel free to reach out to any of us:

Lisa Goodwin: 
Tom Voekler (Board Chair):
Celia Tetlow:


Thoughts on our Cancerversary

Nine years ago today, my son Connor had his last chemotherapy treatment. Today, I want to share thoughts that have been playing through my head over the last year.

As the mother of a childhood cancer survivor, I always have in the back of my mind that he could suffer a relapse or a secondary cancer as a result of earlier treatment. This fear is prevalent among all cancer survivors, whether pediatric or adult. Of course when you're dealing with a child, there's a much longer life time of fear and worry to consider.  Admittedly, as time passes, that fear becomes much more faded and less real. It's always there, but definitely not something that you think about on any with any sort of regularity. 

I often talk about Connor's cancer journey and the fact that he is a survivor because I run Connor's Heroes Foundation, the organization that we named in honor of Connor after he completed his treatment.  We provide direct support to other families battling cancer so that they never feel alone.  Sometimes families coping with their own journey ask whether I still  have fears about Connor relapsing. I would truthfully answer that I don't really worry about him anymore. He's a survivor and I feel confident of that. Well, that all changed this time last year with a routine eye exam. They found swollen optic nerves, which, his optometrist very bluntly informed me, often are indicative of a brain tumor. In a moment, we went from being supremely confident in his survival to horrifically afraid that we had not dodged the bullet after all. We spent a week filled with so many blood tests, appointments with specialists, a bone marrow biopsy, spinal tap, head CT, and MRI.  We researched, prayed, and tried to remain faithful and positive - even in the midst of intense fear.  Our fears were compounded by the fact that his pediatrician and oncologists were moving quickly with fierce determination. His oncologist who had given us his original diagnosis had tears in her eyes when she ran into us in the clinic and heard why we were there. 

After a week of intense anxiety, which we completely shielded from Connor, we were overwhelmed with relief and gratitude when we learned that he did not have cancer again. When I shared my relief with Connor, he said matter-of-factly, "I don't know why you were worried. I knew nothing was wrong with me. I kicked cancer's butt and it isn't coming back!" 

So, on this day of celebration in our family - Connor's "other birthday" - we give thanks and we are truly grateful. It weighs heavily on my heart, however, that so many other families go through similar situations and do not receive good news. Just this last year, I know of at least 7 families who had a child relapse or suffer from a second form of cancer. It hurts my head and my heart to know how hard this journey through childhood cancer becomes for families who have already believed that their child "kicked cancer's butt."

Knowing and understanding the emotional roller coaster that families endure once their child has been diagnosed with cancer is the reason that we started Connor's Heroes. It's why I am so passionate about the programs and support we provide to other families. Wishing with all of my heart that no other family should have to hear the words, "your child has cancer," is why we created the Connor's Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. We must do more to improve the treatments for our children. We must find a cure! 

There, I did it! I completed my first official "blog" entry.  Thank you for reading it and thank you for everything that you have done, and continue to do, to Be a Hero to Children with Cancer!


The Heroes Art Ball 2014

Wow!  29 businesses are sponsoring this year's Heroes Art Ball with $45,000 raised so far! We are excited to welcome Aetna to our community of heroes. They have become a wonderful partner and Superhero Sponsor! Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC and Scaffolding Solutions are our other top sponsors this year. They receive tickets to the event and the best seats in the house during the live auction. Lisa has the ambitious goal of raising $100,000 during this one night – making it the largest fund raising event for CHF ever!  Will you be a part of CHF history? Tickets are on sale now.  Did you know that you can view and bid on our silent auction items before the event?  You don't even have to attend to be able to bid and purchase!  We have TOMS painted by our childhood cancer heroes and amazing RVA artists, which you can view in person at Saxon Shoes.  There is something for everyone, so check it out and start bidding early and often!

American Tap Room RVA Partners with Connor’s Heroes for its Richmond Opening

We were so thrilled to be American Tap Room's designated charity during its pre-opening events leading up to the Grand Opening on November 11.  The community came out to explore this amazing new restaurant and also gave generously to Connor's Heroes.  Through the generosity of our community and American Tap Room, we raised over $2300!  We were so proud to partner with American Tap Room and can't wait for Connor's Heroes night on December 11.  Mark your calendars now to come join the Board of Directors of Connor's Heroes and bring all your friends!  We will receive 10% from the evening's proceeds.

Heroes’ Art Featured in Paper

We are so grateful to our Board Chair, Jimmy Whitten, for his dedication to our organization.  As this article explains, Jimmy has created a customer lounge that prominently features art created by our childhood cancer Heroes.

Connor’s Heroes Helps Bring Pediatric Cancer Research to Richmond!

When Connor was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003, we couldn't believe that Richmond didn’t have its own research center for pediatric cancer.  Despite having a world-class facility at the VCU Massey Cancer Center, Richmond wasn’t conducting research dedicated to pediatric cancer, the #1 disease killer of children.  

We decided to change that.  We have worked with the VCU Massey Cancer Center to raise the money needed to fund an endowed chair in pediatric oncology.  Through our efforts, we’ve helped to raise $480,000!  Just a few months ago, Massey received $500,000 for the endowment fund from a donor not yet ready to be identified. This gift took advantage of matching funds through “The Glasgow Incentive,” so the gift’s impact was doubled to $1 million!

After many years of meetings, raising seed money, and working with the VCU Department of Pediatrics and VCU Massey Cancer Center, we’re thrilled to announce that our goal of bringing a nationally recognized pediatric cancer researcher to Richmond is just around the corner!

Because of our advocacy efforts and helping to raise nearly $500,000, the fund we created has been named the Connor’s Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund That money will be used to provide direct funding for the research that will be conducted. 

With the Endowment Fund ready to go, the search is already underway for the amazing person to lead the charge for pediatric cancer research here in Richmond.  The endowment and supporting research funds will create a strong recruitment package for a nationally-recognized leader in pediatric cancer research.

So, what happens next?  Connor’s Heroes has made a 5-year pledge to the VCU Massey Cancer Center to provide at least $100,000 more to our Fund.  This means we need your support.  Every dollar you donate to research will go directly to someone here in Richmond who is dedicated to help in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Beyond providing immediate help and support to children undergoing cancer treatment and their families, Connor’s Heroes wants to prevent other children from ever experiencing this disease.  That’s why supporting an endowed chair dedicated to pediatric cancer is so critical.

Will you help us Fund to Conquer Childhood Cancer? 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Please help us make it Childhood Cancer Action Month by making your pledge of support today!

diggityFEST 2013 is almost here!

We are so excited to have GRAMMY nominated, Justin Roberts, along with Richmond favorites, The Diggity Dudes headlining the only family music festival in Central Virginia on Sunday, September 15, Noon-5:00 pm.  DiggityFEST, presented by Bon Secours’ movin’ mania program, takes place at Westchester Commons, located at the intersection of Route 288 and Midlothian Turnpike in Midlothian.

This year’s event features a Kid Zone full of activities for all ages and Sedona Tap House’s “Daddio Patio” where adults can watch the football game and enjoy local

 adult beverages.  Here’s our lineup:

12:00 – 12:30             Rolie Polie Guacamole
12:45 - 1:15                 Hope Harris & the Cousins Jamboree
1:30 - 2:10                   Justin Roberts
2:25 - 3:05                   The Diggity Dudes

3:20 - 4:00                   Steven Courtney & the Suitcase Musicians
4:15 - 4:50                   Alastair Moock

At 2:25, the Diggity Dudes will share the stage with the children of Connor’s Heroes to celebrate their journey with pediatric cancer.  

For more information, click here.

Connor’s Heroes at glave kocen Art Gallery

We are proud to partner with our friends from glave kocen gallery to provide adult beverages at their art openings on First Fridays each month.  glave kocen are long-time supporters of Connor's Heroes. Our patients use their studio to paint the beautiful pictures we auction at our Heroes Art Ball. Many of you own a painting. Isn't it a beautiful reminder of the child you've helped? Hope to see you at glave kocen!  Tonight's opening features beautiful paintings by Sheep Jones.  Come visit us!

Run (or walk) with Connor’s Heroes in September

Connor's Heroes has a team and is participating in 2 races in September.  We would love for you to register to join us.  If you're already booked (or just don't do races), you can also send a few dollars our way to show your support.  Here's the skinny:

Did you know that if you donate or raise at least $25 for Connor's Heroes you'll receive this cool running shirt?  Simply click here to make your donation and tell us your size!

PS  We plan to have our very own race in 2014, so start your training now!

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

We need more awareness:  pediatric cancer is the #1 reason our children die from disease (second only to accidents),  1 in 5 children diagnosed with cancer will die and 2/3 of those treated for cancer will suffer from long-term side effects of their treatment.

We need more research:  In 2011, the National Cancer Institute budget was $5.196 billion. Together, all childhood cancers received only 
3.7% of that.

We need more action:  what will YOU do to help?