Two years ago, on Valentine’s Day, hundreds of people gathered in New York City to commemorate and celebrate the life of Liam Witt, the little boy whose parents founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Despite everything he went through, Liam always put others first. He loved unconditionally, and with all his heart. At his memorial, everyone was given a call to action: to always try to “Love Like Liam.”
This Valentine’s Day, the small but dedicated team that runs the organization’s daily operations are sharing the stories of how they became involved, and in their own ways are Loving Like Liam.
Emily Fowler – Executive Director
Someone recently asked me to name my proudest Cookies for Kids’ Cancer moment. That’s simple – the moment I reached out and said, “I want to help.”
It was August 20, 2008 – Gretchen’s birthday as a matter of fact – and I was emailing in response to a simple “call to action” from a week earlier. For the last 18 months, Gretchen and her husband Larry had taken friends, family and even total strangers (like me) along on the journey of their son Liam’s battle with pediatric cancer on their “Prince Liam, the Brave” blog. I’m not much of a blogger, but their words and stories and passion for their son kept me reading each new post. No matter the ups and downs of Liam’s journey, I never doubted that their love would guide Liam through his battle and on to a life of limitless potential.
In August 2008, Gretchen and Larry announced they were taking their holiday cookie concept from 2007 and turning it into a national non-profit by asking individuals to get involved by hosting bake sales nationwide. Gretchen’s birthday wish was for one thing: for everyone reading the blog to join their mission to help fight pediatric cancer, one cookie at a time.
As a mom of two very young and healthy little boys, I knew right then that the very least I could do was help. Did I want to host a bake sale? Sure. That sounded easy enough. Did I want to make a difference – to do my small part to help their giant vision? Absolutely, without a doubt.
I often say the email I sent to Gretchen that day was the beginning of a conversation that has never stopped. Somehow the simple act of raising my hand and saying, “I’ll help,” changed my life forever. But mostly, I hope it will forever change the lives of children diagnosed with pediatric cancer – today, tomorrow and even years from now.
Nicole Fiehler – Director of Supporter Relations
There is nothing like a cancer diagnosis to turn a temporary job into a more permanent position. I had been working for a family with four young boys when the youngest, Taylor, was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2007. He was just 2-years-old at the time. The day of his diagnosis became the beginning of a whole new job: keeping life as normal as possible for his three brothers, while Taylor fought the battle of his life. “Normal” was the goal, but there was also fear, sadness, frustration and so many questions that I did not know how to answer.
In addition to helping with his brothers, I hung out with Taylor, taking him on long walks on cold January days, because being outside distracted him from the discomfort of treatment. I did whatever was needed so that Taylor’s mommy could keep things running as smoothly as possible for the rest of her family. And through it all, I was so aware that I had a front row seat to cancer—pediatric cancer—and the helpless way a parent feels when all they want is to make their child feel better. This intimate experience placed in my heart a desire to make sure other little boys and girls had the same amazing outcome as Taylor.
When Taylor was finishing up treatment, his parents planned a big festival to celebrate. Taylor’s mom asked me to help incorporate a bake sale into the event. She had heard of an organization called “Cookies for Kids’ Cancer,” and that they had employee in the area that could probably guide me through it. Emily Fowler and I were acquaintances at this point, and planning a bake sale sounded easy enough, right? Several months, 30,000 baked goods, and $15,000 later, I was hooked and determined to stay involved.
At that time, I was a stay-at-home mom to my 2-year-old son, so volunteering for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fit into my life perfectly. I believed my small efforts could make a big difference. Two and a half years later, my volunteer role has become much more. Each day I get to wake up knowing that I am making a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer.
Taylor is now a happy, healthy second grader. On the sixth anniversary of his diagnosis, his mom wrote me an email, thanking me for being a part of their family during that time. She wrote, “Even when people must be at “arm’s length” in the life of a family dealing with pediatric cancer, gestures of support really do matter. Reading back through all the letters of people who told us they were cutting their hair for “Locks of Love,” or donating blood, or doing bake sales, or organizing prayer meetings reminds me of just how much of a difference those gestures can make. Few people can play the role you did, but everyone can do something!”
It is a gift to do something each day. . .
Erin Dry – Director of Operations
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of women who volunteered their time and energy to host the first annual “Queen City Mom Prom.” I was excited to help, and even more excited when I realized all the proceeds from the event would go to “Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.” At the time, I did not know much about the organization, but I had read stories of families battling this horrible disease and my heart hurt for the pain they were going through.
When I started volunteering with “Queen City Mom Prom,” I was staying at home with my two boys. While planning the event, my dear friend, Kelly Arning, introduced me to Emily Fowler, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer’s Executive Director, and the Supporter Relations Director Nicole Fiehler. I was immediately impressed by their dedication, as well as the passion and energy that were behind their desire to make a difference. I knew that I wanted to be a part of such an amazing cause that helped change lives.
Prior to working with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, I had a great corporate HR job. However, the fulfillment of knowing that I was making a difference was missing. If I was going to be away from my kids, I wanted to make sure I was helping others, and I wanted my kids to see how important raising funds for pediatric cancer research was to me. It didn’t take long for them to understand. When I told my then 5-year-old that I was going to start working with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, his immediate response was, “How can I help?” We got out the “Cowboy Cookie” recipe and made about three dozen cookies. He packaged them, and we put them in his wagon and walked around the neighborhood selling cookies. He made ten dollars that afternoon, and when he handed me the money he said, “Mom, will this help cure cancer?”
I knew at that moment that I wanted to do everything I could to help raise money for pediatric cancer research. My oldest, who is six-years-old, will often ask, “Has Cookies raised enough money yet to find a cure for cancer?” I hope very soon I can answer him by saying, “Yes, we did it! Cookies for Kids’ Cancer raised enough money to fund a research grant that found a cure for pediatric cancer.”