Two weeks ago today, our hearts were shattered in a million pieces when Liam Witt, the inspiration behind Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, came to the end of his brave and epic battle with pediatric cancer. He fought fearlessly and relentlessly for 4 years, but his enemy had grown in size and strength. Liam passed away peacefully in the arms of his mommy and daddy around 4 in the afternoon on Monday, January 24th.
The loss of Liam remains incomprehensible and wholly unbelievable. We have been leveled by this new reality, stunned to silence by our sadness. For those of us lucky enough to know and love Prince Liam the Brave, he was indeed a daily inspiration as well as a completely amazing little boy with an endless love of life. We have received an outpouring of love and support highlighting the difference Liam made in so many lives. These stories inspire us to keep moving forward to keep Liam’s legacy alive. We decided to post one note from supporter Wendy Martin of Richmond, Virginia, who shared with us her thoughts on why she became involved and how she plans to continue supporting the mission of funding new therapies for pediatric cancer. We hope her words inspire you as well. . .
Fundraising as a Martial Art & the story behind a Bake Sale
The Japanese have a form of martial arts called “Aikido.” It focuses not on punching or kicking your opponents, but rather on using your opponents’ own energy to gain control of them or throw them away from you.
Anyone who has ever faced pediatric cancer will tell you that – despite being an abhorrent coward – it’s a powerful opponent. Medical professionals use surgeries and toxic treatments to fight it. Friends and families use hope, love and prayer (among other things).
But imagine if we could redirect cancer’s own rage and power right back at it? This, I realized recently, is exactly what Cookies for Kids’ Cancer does.
Last summer, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Founder Gretchen Holt Witt posted this status update to her Facebook page: “It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us. Pray for him and hold a bake sale.”
Those words were read 300 miles away in Richmond, Va. And just 20 days later – in direct response to cancer’s attack – a handful of bake sale coordinators, a dozen “team captains” and hundreds of moms, dads, caring souls, big-hearted businesses, kids, scouts and students raised more than $34,000 to fund pediatric cancer research. Every dollar earned was matched by a grant from Glad to Give™. (Read how that sale came together and the secrets to our success.)
Something in me shifted
Behind every Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale, there are stories. The obvious ones are those told on heartbreaking blogs and CaringBridge sites by parents of kids battling the number one disease killer of children in the United States. Yet every bake sale coordinator also has a story – of the precise moment when sitting out the fight against pediatric cancer was no longer an option.
For Lesa Helbein, a coordinator of the highest-grossing bake sale in Cookies for Kids’ Cancer’s history, that moment was November 2009.
When they let go of all of those balloons
“I went to the Cure Search Walk to walk in honor of Grier – a sweet, adorable, brown-eyed boy in my son’s preschool class,” she explains. “Grier and his family were standing on a stage on one side of the lake, waiting with other families for their ‘warriors’ to get medals for being so brave.
“After the medals were distributed, the families on the other side of the lake let go of all of those balloons for all of the children that had been lost in our area. I looked over and thought to myself what that must be like for Grier’s family – to watch those balloons go up and not know what side of that lake they may be on in years to come. It was heartbreaking to see those emotions on those families. Something shifted in me in that very moment.
“I realized that these parents shouldn’t have to worry about raising funds to save their children’s lives. That afternoon I went to the ‘Cookies’ website, and they made it so easy that I just jumped right in.”
Since then, Lesa and her team have coordinated six Cookies for Kids’ Cancer events, raising over $100,000 in cash donations from individuals PLUS a $50,000 donation from Bank of America PLUS matches from Glad to Give, predominantly in the Charlotte, N.C. area. “I can’t believe it myself really,” she says, “I was just a stay-at-home mom with a little extra time on my hands. Just goes to show that, with a little determination, anyone could raise thousands for ‘Cookies.’”
Why pediatric cancer?
There are a million good causes, aren’t there, so why support pediatric cancer research? Because no disease kills more kids in the U.S. than pediatric cancer. It claims the lives of more children than asthma, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and AIDS combined. The main reason more than 25 percent of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive is the lack of effective therapies. Most heart breaking of all? Promising, life-saving therapies sit on shelves – right now – for lack of funds.
But here’s one thing I know – and thousands of other Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale coordinators know – with absolute certainty: Nothing – and I mean nothing – makes people open their hearts or their wallets faster than “pediatric cancer.” And few things in this world feel better than taking a money-filled bat to pediatric cancer’s head, especially when cancer is stalking a child you know and love.
You can do much more than just pray for families affected by pediatric cancer. Will you?
Think of it as practicing Aikido. Speak and write powerful words about the sickening blows that pediatric cancer intends for the most vulnerable among us (words of a diagnosis, a surgery, a relapse). Share the photos of those beautiful kids and the wounds that cowardly cancer has inflicted upon them. Add a batch of cookies and a donation jar. And then just stand back and watch as the world rises up and redirects that force and fury right back at cancer, one dollar at a time.
– written by Wendy Martin in memory of Prince Liam the Brave