Connor's Heroes is one of a few nonprofits who are allowed on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit to serve the patients on the floor. The unit is not a pediatric ward. Our kids are sharing the halls with adults. When a child is admitted to BMT, the staff know immediately who to call. It's Connor's Heroes. This includes cancer patients and children diagnosed with other blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia. Kareem is one such patient. He is 13 years old. When he entered his room on the unit, he didn't expected all the decorations and gifts. Thank you to Ellen Purcell and Hannah Brown for spending an afternoon preparing his room. Thank you for letting Connor's Heroes be there for all the young patients on the BMT unit.
Aaron emailed Connor's Heroes over the summer. Inspired by the good things we do for other children, he wanted to raise money through a service project for his upcoming bar mitzvah. He thought it would be fun to sell cookies - not just any cookies, but ones he made himself and a different variety every week. Aaron picked out the recipes and created the schedule. He promoted it to his friends and family, took orders, baked the cookies, and delivered them! What a surprise when he showed up at our office with $1,650 raised from his service project. He used the proceeds to buy Shell and Kroger gift cards. We will give out gift cards to help families over the holidays. Aaron is an example of how easy it is for you to be a hero to a child with cancer.
Congrats to Ed who ran the Richmond Marathon. Connor himself joined Ed for the last sprint as they crossed the finish line together. The story behind Connor's Heroes inspired Ed to run in honor of childhood cancer families and the cancer heroes in his own family. Seeing Ed and Connor together was worth the cold morning at the Richmond Marathon. If Ed and Connor inspire you then why not donate in honor of the cancer heroes in your life.
Savannah is a 15-year-old girl from Ashland. Her life was filled with being a cheerleader and a varsity lacross player. Then in March, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Thanks to her compassionate coaches and friends, Savannah continues to be a part of her cheerleading and lacross team. At Connor's Heroes, we've guided many teenagers through this time. We offer support where and when it is needed the most. We give them space to process the emotions of their cancer and surprise them with a plush stuffed animal to cuddle when they need comfort. Savannah talks about what it means to be a teenager with cancer. Her mom, Jacquelyn, also shares her thoughts on how she deals with her daughter's diagnosis.
Savannah shared her thoughts:
Don’t give up. Looks are not your #1 priority. It’s hard for girls who are in their teens to lose their hair or lose the shape you once had. I was an athlete. I cheered for my high school and played varsity lacrosse. It made me angry when I couldn’t do things that came so easy to me before. When you are sick you lose energy. It’s hard to accept that. When you look in the mirror and see a different person then you are used to looking at it can take a toll on you mentally. Just remember that this is temporary. You will get back to being yourself. It will not be the old self that you remember because you will appreciate the important things in life. I’m not saying that this is a blessing because it’s hard and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but I do feel that I am lucky because after the hardest climb I received the best view.
Savannah's mom, Jacquelyn said:
When I was asked to give advice to families who are dealing with childhood cancer I thought giving advice would be easy. I could tell you to keep the faith, stay positive, ask for help, etc. The truth is all those things are very important but I think the best advice I could give is to allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with this disease. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to question your faith. It’s ok to smile even when your world seems to be crumbling down. Watching your child go through this disease is the most terrifying emotional roller coaster that you will ever experience. You will see moments that will break your heart. You will wonder “why my child?” You will be angry. You will be angry because the world around you does not stop when you feel like your world has. Your child will look different. Chemo changes their appearance. The crazy thing is you see an awesome beauty that comes from within them. Their inner beauty glows stronger than ever. You will watch your child grow into a courageous warrior. It’s amazing how strong they can be. Don’t feel guilty when you are not sad. Your child needs normalcy.... Savannah will return to her new normal one day and I want her to remember this chapter in her life as a fight but one that allowed her to feel the emotions and allowed her to grow stronger. You will see that your family will grow stronger as well. To all the families out there who are fighting the good fight you are not alone. Allow yourself to feel the emotions. Stay as normal as possible and keep the faith.
On the Facebook Page, "Josh Nukes the Leuk," Josh and his family share the journey they are taking as Josh is in treatment for leukemia. Josh is a 17-year-old high school student who is active in the JROTC and enjoys computer games. Teenagers with cancer have unique issues as they are on the verge of adulthood, but are being treated in a pediatric clinic, often with much younger patients. They struggle with gaining their independence just like their friends, yet they must rely on their family for their care. Connor's Heroes has had many years of experience helping our teenage heroes. Josh's mom offered advice to other Hero parents who have a teen battling cancer like her son.
PRAY and use your faith. Trust your instinct. Don't be afraid to call for what you think might be a silly question. Stay off the internet. Ask the doctors your questions. Take it one day at a time, one stage at a time. Find a fellow Mom who knows what you are going through. I was blessed to find a Mom on a facebook page. Her son Anthony is 16. He and Josh are at the same stage in their treatment. Scott, Josh and I have found that laughter and our faith has gotten us through this. If you see us in clinic, we are normally laughing. Some may look at us weird, and yes, this is a serious hand Josh has been dealt, but we don't dwell on it.
Pic cred: Facebook page of Josh Nukes the Leuk
This month's Heroes Art Session was a celebration of Fall. All these Heroes are in different stages of their cancer journeys. You may recognize some of them from past Heroes Art Balls. Now look at them!
We want to thank the Visual Arts Center, Celia and our volunteers who give our childhood cancer heroes the special memories created at our Art Sessions. If seeing these pictures is pulling you to help childhood cancer families in Richmond, visit our Get Involved section. We list how you can help through your time, in-kind donations and financial gifts.
The Strum Group, a generous sponsor of our Heroes Art Ball, gave a very generous in-kind donation. They arranged for the production company, Mike King Biz, to produce a short commercial about Connor's Heroes. It will air on the CW Network. We've shared the video on the Connor's Heroes Facebook Page.
Wow, what a surprise! An Amazon.com box arrived in our office. Of course we were thrilled to see the gold ribbon in honor of September's Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Someone saw our wish list, purchased items on the list and shipped it right to our office front door. Program Coordinator, Fran, was actually giddy when she saw this box full of exactly what she needed to pack some Heroes Backpacks. You can deliver a surprise, too. Go to our wish list and purchase items that we will give the childhood cancer heroes in Richmond. Thank you for caring.
This smile says it all. Abigail loves painting, coloring and drawing. When she was diagnosed with germ cell cancer, she received her Heroes Backpack from Connor's Heroes. She couldn't believe it when she opened up the backpack and inside was her very own an iPad! iPads are a great boredom buster for the long waits in clinic and stays in the hospital. Connor's Heroes began putting iPads in our Heroes Backpacks this year. We purchased them thanks to the financial gifts you made directly to us or at our events like the Heroes Art Ball or Heroes Run. With all its fun apps, Abigail can create her art, and stay connected with her friends from school and family.
We are grateful to this volunteer crew from CarMax. They spent four hours working in our office on southside and the storage room at U-Turn on the west side of town. This wasn't easy work. They built shelves, moved furniture, cleaned out offices used for storage and organized the toys, books, blankets, snacks and crafts generously donated by you over the summer. Of course, the most meaningful project was when they filled the Heroes Backpacks. They carefully picked each toy, book or stuffed animal knowing that we would give the Heroes Backpack to a child or teen when they first learn that they have cancer. Words no parent expects to hear. Thank you to Jay Bostain, our contact in Richmond, for arranging the team.