Smashing Cancer!

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Regan and Abby

On Sunday, March 19, Nick’s Round Table’s fundraising chair, Sarah Collins, organized a fundraiser at Smashburgers in Clifton Park. She and other members worked hard to spread the word. Regan, who is currently battling cancer and Abby, who is done with her treatment joined Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation for their first fundraiser at Smashburger’s in Clifton Park. This was the first time Abby ever had a burger, and it would appear that the Smashburger Kids’ meal was a success!

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My husband, Luke, and his U12 Clifton Park A-team had just played a soccer game and came in all hungry and ready to chow down for a great cause!

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Siblings were happy to join in!

 

 

167 people joined us during this fundraiser. Smashburger donated $2 for every person who ordered an entree or kids’ meal. As a benefit they had a 1/2 off milkshake special and 71 people took advantage of it! I heard they are the best in the area!

Thank you to Leo and Sue Butera for your support and donating $334 to Nick’s Round Table that will be used to support local children battling cancer! Thanks to everyone who came out to eat!

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Karen Patchell, didn’t have Chloe with her, but rather good friends, Kathy and Craig!

Raising Money, Raising Spirits

I was honored today to attend the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at the Westmere Firehouse in Guilderland. The wonderful staff at The Melodies Center is very involved in organizing this particular event along with other teams and Tim Stowell of the Green Drakkoman Foundation.

Nick’s Round Table teens had been volunteering at this event for the past 4 years by doing arts and crafts with all the kids who attend, whether they are cancer patients, siblings, relatives, or friends.

This was the first time I attended. As I watched the fire trucks and emergency vehicles pull up in front of the firehouse, my heart clutched. Children who have been battling cancer for only months or years waved through the window so excited that a crowd had gathered to welcome them. Everyone cheered as each child and their family emerged. I was very touched when beautiful Faith, after being helped from the truck by her mother, walked into the firehouse holding the hand of one of the nurses, Holly. I laughed when Amazing Abby emerged all smiles in her brilliant green cape waving to the crowd like she was preparing to receive an Oscar. I smiled when Chase tucked his head even deeper into his mom’s neck, not quite ready to receive everyone’s support.

There were many children that I didn’t know, but I made a point to walk around and introduce myself.  One mom came up to me and thanked me for the Family Hope Bags, because they had such a big impact on her child’s cancer journey.

Others offered to help with the foundation and were incredibly impressed with the teens who the arts and crafts to entertain all the kids.

I saw young adults giving back because so many had given to them. Markel volunteered at the bone marrow match table, Kendra welcomed kids at the arts and crafts, and Kacey enjoyed talking with others and connecting.

Finally, I got to meet four-year-old Isabella Caruso. Bella came right up to me after I met her parents and gave me a wave of her hand. Her beautiful blue eyes were expressive and I think held a bit of mischief. She was ready to go meet all the teens at the arts and crafts table. Her first meet and greet was with Chloe, Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation’s official pet therapy dog!

Bella and her family have agreed to be Nick’s Warrior for Nick’s Run to be Healed 5K this September 25, so get ready to see a lot more of her!

All this happened before, during, and after people shaved their heads. Abby got upset because people were getting their heads shaved. Once she understood that they had agreed to do this to help kids with cancer, she smiled.

Not only did this one event raise over $70,000 specifically to help research for children’s cancer, it brought people together who understand what it means for a child to lose their hair, they get the ups and downs of side effects, and the rollercoaster ride that every family faced with cancer goes through.

While raising money for research, people’s spirits were also raised and that in itself does so much to heal. I will always support this event as research is the path toward a cure, but while we work hard to make that happen, we continue to raise hope and heal kids by having fun.

Remembering Nick

As I try to write about the 7th year of my boy’s passing, I am filled with sadness mixed anger, love and gratefulness. I’m an oxymoron of emotions. In order to make sense of my emotions, I looked at their journals. These three photos are from 2002. Nick was 7 and Stephen was 5. What I noticed going through the words I wrote and the pictured displayed was how much love our family shared. And not just our immediate family. Love encompassed their aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends who made our family complete. We had so much fun, joy, and hysterical laughter. 
Birthdays were always a huge family event with lots of food, bounce houses, family and friends

Our families did everything together and the memories that we created have held me together through some of my deepest grief. I am grateful to know that we gave our kids the best childhood they could possibly have had. We had love and that sustains me. 
October 31, 2002–our favorite holiday!

Nick was always distracted during soccer and losing a tooth was just another reason to miss the ball!
But then at this time of year I am catapulted back to those horrible moments 7 years ago when Nick had complications from his chemotherapy. I won’t relive it here because that doesn’t serve any purpose. But the fact that the love and joy of October that you see above is marred by such gut wrenching grief really pisses me off. Of course it wouldn’t have mattered what time of the year it had happened. The pain would still be here, but the rollercoaster of pain and happiness takes a toll on all of us. We express it in different ways, but the grief remains. 

Liam having some fun while he waits to go home after transplant.
The decision to begin a foundation to help other children fight cancer came from the feeling of powerlessness that we felt not being able to heal our child. Many sacrifices have been made to build a successful foundation and it has involved so many volunteers to achieve our goals. But we do it because to do nothing is not an option. The anger grows and the need to make a difference becomes overwhelming. It becomes a mission.
I received an email about Liam who is pictured above. Here Liam received new life with a bone marrow transplant in Rochester. One of our volunteers, Kayla Wheeler, went to visit Liam and bring him some gifts. He was happy and doing well. Sadly his mom informed me that Liam has relapsed with Leukemia. This breaks my heart and makes me think of Nick and all that he went through. It’s hard to remain emotionally separate. I can’t do it. So my heart bleeds for this little boy and I will do what I can to help him. 
Liam’s mom asks that we pray for him and send him positive messages. 
You can follow his story on Facebook page Love for Liam
Abby living in the moment “marrying” her favorite nurse, Matt.
Then I am overjoyed when I see a little beauty like Amazing Abby who is living life to the fullest extent despite her cancer and treatments. She and her little sister, Zoey, have woven their way into my heart and I couldn’t feel more grateful and blessed. These moments of goodness, hope and happiness get me through my saddest days. I know that despite my pain, I can still do good for others and I want to do that.  Abby has taught me to celebrate life, because you don’t know what may happen tomorrow. Grab what you can today and enjoy it.
This reminds me of Nick and his never ending optimism and bubbly personality. I live my life striving to find the positive and the good in everything and everyone I meet. The option isn’t feasible to me. So when the sadness gets too much, I think of the good and when those moments of happiness sneak in, I embrace them and am thankful.
Never a day goes by that I don’t miss my child. The same goes for every other parent, sibling, relation or friend who has lost someone to cancer. As I remember Nick today, I ask you to honor his memory by finding good in your life and if you can’t find any right now, do something to bring out the positive. Renew hope, have compassion, and give back.
And like Nick would do–tell a joke and make someone laugh.

Abby Fights Back with Love!

So you may have heard about and seen the fabulous video of Amazing Abby marrying her nurse, Matt, during an adorably heart wrenching ceremony at The Melodies Center. It sparked quite a positive response and was seen around the world. Unique memories and precious moments like these are what children with cancer literally live for. Instead of the memory of getting poked and prodded or sick from chemotherapy, Abby’s day was filled with love and celebration. Every sick child deserves to have many of these wonderful moments.

Abby gave me a big hug at her fundraiser for cancer research!

While this was an incredibly fantastic day in Abby’s life, many may not know that she had been busy behind the scenes raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand which provides funding for childhood cancer research. Yes, we know that it was probably her parents who set up the site and her grandfather made the awesome yellow stand and an hour into pouring lemonade and saying hi to people, Abby probably had enough. But what we have to remember is instead of feeling bitter about their life or the circumstances that they are in, Abby and her family are not only fighting back, but giving back. Abby and every child with cancer have the opportunity to make a huge difference in other people’s lives. Of course it’s not a requirement that if you have cancer you must fundraise, but think of the positive effects it can have on Abby, her family, and the community.

Abby learns that people give because they care, that giving back makes her feel really good, and that she gets to toss water balloons at people’s feet, mine included! It was an incredibly hot day so was very refreshing. When Abby gets through her cancer treatment, perhaps she’ll want to keep giving back and maybe some day she’ll get involved in Nick’s Round Table and continue to help children battle cancer. Giving back is a win-win choice for everyone and when it’s done with love, it makes everyone stronger and healthier.

Thank you to Abby and your wonderful family for raising money for much needed research! I heard you hit your goal in the first hour and look forward to your next adventure!

To positively support Abby during her journey, visit her Facebook Page at Amazing Abby.

The Power of our Youth

Besides being amazed by the strength of children battling cancer, I am incredibly inspired by the young adults who help them with their fight. I’m not only inspired, I’m honored and motivated whenever I see firsthand what they do.

Tonight was the monthly Nick’s Round Table meeting. Teens from Shenendehowa Central School, Burnt Hills, Albany Academy, and Shaker, as well as other area schools come together once a month to work on raising money to make children’s lives happier and easier. They volunteer at every single event that Nick’s Fight to be Healed sponsors. Whether it’s a fundraiser, sharing a dinner, shopping for the family, supporting at a conference, helping the staff from The Melodies Center, writing supporting notes, packing water bottles for events or building a float to raise awareness, these young adults have it together.

There were over 40 members at the meeting tonight and my son, Stephen, kept the meeting flowing nicely. He has become a comfortable leader who doesn’t mind having fun, but gets the job done. Marcus Romano, whose brother Luke passed away almost 4 years ago has taken over the Luke Strong Olympics and spoke to the group tonight to get support.

Stephen Cammarata, Maddy Healy and Michael Blond shopping for Chase. Support Chase on Facebook at Chase Away Leukemia.

Yesterday,  10 or more volunteers did arts and crafts for children at The Melodies Center’s St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser. They aren’t afraid to hug and show children love and joy no matter what they are going through. They are beacons of hope when kids are suffering and inspiration for anyone who doesn’t know how to help someone with cancer. They are themselves and they treat others like they would want to be treated–normally with a little sugar on top.

Erin Doescher (left) and Katie Collins (co-VP of Nick’s Round Table) met beautiful Abby at St. Baldrick’s event. Support Abby on her Facebook page Amazing Abby.

So many leaders and innovative self-starters have sprung from their involvement in Nick’s Round Table. Kayla Wheeler is in her fifth year at RIT doing graduate work. She has had multiple fundraisers for the foundation and has donated money to the Golisano’s Children’s Hospital in Rochester. She recently went shopping for Liam, a little boy who is preparing for a bone marrow transplant at the hospital. Going far away from home for a scary procedure is very tough for a little guy and Kayla showing up with gifts and her awesome smile had to make him feel good. That show of support is what the family needed.

Liam having some fun in between treatments. Support him on Facebook at Love for Liam (in his fight against Leukemia)

Brianna Dioses has been extremely involved in helping other young adults with cancer at The College of New Jersey and is working on helping children in the hospital. These are young adults leading the way to empower others and make the world a better place. I couldn’t be prouder of them and when I see what they are doing I get revved up to keep fighting the war against cancer.

To see what all these amazing teens do go to Nick’s Fight to be Healed’s website

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Nick’s Round Table and the adults who have donated so much of their time helping this group–Ann Frantti, Annette Romano, Diane Lange, Karen Patchell, Barb Brosnan, and many others. It takes a community to create change, but it’s the power of our youth that makes all the difference.