Hi my name is Ruby Roxanne Agresta. I am a Mother of three beautiful kids and Owner/Designer of Ruby Roxanne Designs. I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Gretchen Holt Witt speak at an event called “Mamma’s Night Out.” The event was put on by my friends Michelle Riddle (Michelle Riddle Photography) and Cara Pearson (Pacific Cookie Company) here in Santa Cruz, CA. Michelle came up with an idea to help raise money for Cookies for Kids Cancer, and not only was it a blast, but it was for a great cause and very successful.
Gretchen flew in from New Jersey to speak about her son Liam who passed away last January from Nueroblastoma at the tender age of 6. She told us wonderful stories about Liam’s passion for life and how he loved everyone he met. His favorite color was orange and he was such a brave little boy. I have to say that there was not a dry eye in the crowd. The words that stuck deep in my heart were “Love, Like, Liam” I knew I had to get involved and help raise money to support pediatric cancer research. It broke my heart to no end, knowing how Liam did not have many options to fight his cancer all due to funding. Did you just read what I wrote: “No Funding.” So, as I sat there and listened to Gretchen share her story and her mission with her non-profit foundation, Cookies for Kids Cancer, all I could think was, “This must change.” I didn’t know what I was going to do, but for one thing, I wasn’t just going to sit around and wait. Michelle and Cara inspired me that one idea can create a wonderful change.
All the Mom’s who attended this event were given an Orange bead on a string to represent Liam, then we could all choose other colors of beads to represent our own kids. I thought to myself, tonight is about Liam and I did not add anymore beads. Gretchen had given Michelle and Cara an Orange beaded bracelet that had three L’s on it, to represent Love, Like, Liam. It was so touching. I didn’t realize how much the color Orange meant to Liam and Gretchen.
Being a designer, I thought to myself, I am going to send Gretchen a
cuff to show my support to her cause. Not just any cuff, I decided to design a cuff with beautiful Orange flowers on it. Every Mom deserves flowers!
After the event I wore Liam’s Orange beaded bracelet until it finally broke off two months later. I put the orange bead in my jewelry box to remind everyday of little Liam, and how important it was for me to find a way to help raise money. I thought I’d start by designing Gretchen’s bracelet. I found different shades of orange leather and made her a flower cuff. I included two gold flowers to represent Liam and her daughter Ella. Everything I design MUST have a meaning…this cuff has been the most important design I have done.
I posted a picture of Gretchen’s cuff on my Facebook Business Page and tagged her in it. I was going to keep this gift private but then I thought, why not show my followers this cuff, and use it as an opportunity to share how much Gretchen’s story had meant to me. I simply wanted to make them aware of Cookies for Kids Cancer, but then something incredible happened. Several women wanted that same cuff. Then an idea was born–I decided to come up with a line of cuffs just for Liam and Cookies for Kids Cancer. Knowing what I know now, I simply can’t walk away. I am blessed that my kids are cancer free, however kids cancer has affected me immensely. For those of you reading this whose child is cancer free, thank God. For those of you who are reading this whose child has cancer, my hope is that we can all ban
d together and contribute, in even the smallest amounts, to the funding for children’s research, to ensure that help is on the way for your little angel.
Here is my story with cancer:
On November 13, 2008 I had a play date planned with my daughter Madison and her best friend Cassidy. While I don’t typically recall our scheduled play dates for years to come, this is one I will never forget. On the night of Nov 12th, a friend of mine called to let me know that Cassidy and her mom would not be able to make the play date because her little brother Ashton Gillin had been rushed to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford due to the discovery of a brain tumor.
My heart just sank. I had just been with Ashton and my friend, Dori, painting faces for our girl’s Halloween class party. I still remember Ashton playing in his adorable pirate costume. As I hung up the phone I felt completely helpless. I didn’t know what to do, how to help, or who to call. I just sat there and cried. I could only imagine what my friend Dori and her husband Pat were going through.
Ashton was diagnosed with MEDULLOBLASTOMA at the young age of 3 ½. He underwent emergency surgery to remove a large tumor from his brain. There were also signs of additional tumors in his brain and spine that surgery would not help. Ashton went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment to get rid of the remaining cancer cells. The good news is that Ashton is cancer free at the age of 6. The not-so-good news is that Ashton will experience negative, LIFE LONG side effects from his surgery and treatments. At 6 years old, he is the size of a 4 year old boy. He has gained the mobility on the left side of his body that had been lost during the surgery he underwent to remove his brain tumor. Trust me, we all are grateful to have Ashton, however with funding there will be safer treatments to offer children without negative side effects.
His Mom, Dori, is proud to say that Ashton is almost running again. Running isn’t something we take for granted. They are also faced with the fact that Ashton’s cancer has a 50% chance of coming back. An even more startling fact, is that if Ashton’s cancer were to return, chances for a cure is not possible and it would be fatal.
Dori and I want to reach out to as many people as possible, to share the importance, and dire need, of funding for children’s cancer research. Dori and Pat are allowing me to share their story about Ashton’s cancer, in hopes that we can help spread the word. Not only could funding and continued research help to increase little Ashton’s odds of staying cancer free, but it could help the hundreds of children with similar stories each year.
We understand that it is difficult and unsettling to read stories about children who have been affected by cancer, and that sometimes it is just easier to look away and avoid the harsh reality and devastation that cancer brings to so many young children, every day. However, our hope is that after reading Ashton’s story, you are more inclined than ever to help make a difference by donating to Cookies for Kids Cancer.
When I see Ashton he runs up to me and gives me the biggest kiss. He calls me his princess, and let me tell you this warms my heart to no end. Aston also mentioned to my husband that he wants to marry me. I just love this little boy so much and want to make sure he has a safe future, Ashton deserves it. I may not be able to bake, but I can design and that is just what I am going to do to help raise money for research!
In Honor of Liam Witt:
My children Devin, Madison, Isabella and I came up with a design for Liam’s cuff, and a name that we are all very proud of… “The Liam’s Heart of Gold Collection.” I will be selling these cuffs on my website and I am donating 50% of my sales from this line to Cookies for Kids Cancer. If I run out of Orange leather, then I will find more and continue in my efforts to help support the raising of funds for Pediatric cancer research. These beautiful children who are affected by cancer need more options and better survival rates.
Cancer can hit anyone at anytime, no matter the color of your skin, your age or your background. Cancer has also taken away my best friend of 20 years, Pietra Duffy. She passed away a few weeks after Liam on February 2nd, 2011. I designed a line of cuffs (Peetie Love Cuffs) to represent our friendship and my love for her. She really liked the large heart. She fought Non-Smoker lung cancer for a year and I was there for her every step of the way. Pietra left behind a loving husband Shawn, a wonderful son Spencer and a beautiful daughter Savannah.
Through my designs, my love for Peetie is known. My children and I wanted to create the same for Gretchen and Larry Witt to exemplify their love for their son Liam. My kids have lost their Auntie Peetie and adore little Ashton. They want to do all they can to help raise money too. We will never get the chance to hold our loved ones again, but we would be so honored to see you with a cuff on to show your support for our cause.
Cancer is not going away and I don’t want these families affected by cancer to feel hopeless. With our support they will have more options for cancer treatments that won’t include life-long side effects. Help me better the chances for Ashton and so many other children with cancer.
This is a quote from Gretchen Holt “On this odyssey, we have learned that pediatric cancer robs families of more children than any other disease. We learned about the vast disparity between funding for pediatric cancer and other cancers. We learned of the lack of interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies to invest research and development dollars in treatments and cures. And after we learned all of these shocking facts, we decided to do something about it. Together we can make a difference. Together we can improve children’s odds, children like my son who I love more than anything.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and now is the perfect time to get educated, get involved, help donate and save a child’s life. This investment will have a great return!
Host a bake sale, Cookies for Kids cancer has all the information to help you make it successful. Maybe you are a designer like me, have a trunk show and donate portions of your sales. The sky is the limit on how you can help, just please don’t turn away, even $1.00 can go a long way! I thank you for your time and for reading my story.
I want to give a special “Thank You” to Michelle Riddle who took our fabulous pictures and to Cara Pearson for donating the cookies for our photo shoot. I also want to “Thank” Shannon Hughes from www.happyhourmom.com, for helping me with writing this blog. She is getting ready to move to Japan and yet made time to help me out and my cause!
Lastly I want to “Thank” Dori, Pat and my little Prince, Ashton Gillin, for letting me share their personal story. I love you Ashton!
Love, Like, Liam,
Ruby R. Agresta
Ruby’s website link: www.rubyroxannedesigns.com
Ruby’s Etsy Shop featuring Liam’s Heart of Gold Collection link: www.rubyroxdesigns.etsy.com