One of Prince Liam’s beloved preschool teachers, Lisa Schalk, volunteered to share the news about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer during the Tribeca Family Festival. She shared her experiences with the Cookies team and we wanted to share them with you. Thank you, Lisa, for loving Liam and loving Cookies and for finding the perfectly sweet way to share the Cookies message.
Many families with young, healthy children would rather not think about pediatric cancer. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s that they are consumed with raising their own children – a complex adventure to say the least. And let’s face it, pediatric cancer is a painful place to go.
Understandably, most people don’t want to put cancer and children in the same sentence, even though the reality is that any family with young, healthy children could be faced with cancer at any point. Cancer doesn’t send a calling card. It’s not something that’s planned or arranged. It can just show up, unannounced and unwelcome. But for many families, it’s too scary to embrace this reality…and too overwhelming to take on a cause that doesn’t directly affect them.
Unfortunately, families with young children who are fighting cancer don’t have the luxury of choice. They don’t want to go there either, but they have to. They have to for the good of their children.
I am a nursery school teacher who went there because one of my students, Liam Witt, fought neuroblastoma for over half his life and finally succumbed to it this past January. Over the years, I came to know Liam’s family and, of course, I came to know about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I recently volunteered by heading down to Manhattan’s Tribeca Family Festival to a ‘Cookies’ booth to spread the word about the organization. No cookies–just literature, stickers, coloring sheets for children, sidewalk chalk, and good intentions. After spending about an hour there, I stumbled upon a way to engage more families in the crusade against pediatric cancer.
Rewind tape: It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in April in New York City. Droves of young families are pushing strollers and walking children of various pre-teens up and down Manhattan’s Greenwich Avenue at the Tribeca Family Festival that occurs in conjunction with the famed Tribeca Film Festival. Lining each side of the street are musicians, dancers, face painters, and booths hawking free popcorn, reasonably priced crab cakes, and organic cotton children’s clothing. And then there’s me, along with a handful of additional volunteers, at the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer table.
Armed with pamphlets and sheets of “I’m a Good Cookie” stickers, I put on my best smile and attempt to make eye contact with moms walking by. I try out a number of entrée questions:
“Want to learn more about a fantastic organization that’s fighting kids’ cancer?”
“Can I tell you about an incredible organization that is raising money for pediatric cancer research, which as you may or may not know is vastly under-funded?”
“Hi, I am a preschool teacher. Want to know how you can help kids who have cancer by just baking cookies?”
None of these hooks catch many fish. I read the faces of the parents who pass me by, noting the cloud of emotions that register upon hearing the ‘C’ word (cancer) attached to the other ‘C’ word (children). I feel that my questions are a pin prick in the bubble of their pursuit of family happiness on a Sunday afternoon. I see the discomfort wash over them as they say, “No thanks,” and I can understand it. How can I reach them in a way that is respectful and true to my cause? And then an idea comes to me, and I re-shape my question.
“Hi, can I tell you about a fantastic opportunity for you to introduce your children to community service? It’s a hands-on way to empower your children to help other children who need their help.”
Well, can I tell you that people stopped? They listened. Families who want to do the right thing, families that flood phone lines of soup kitchens every Thanksgiving, eager to serve on food lines so they can teach their children about values and the virtues of generosity, stopped to hear how they could help their children become better human beings. For the good of their children, they stopped and listened.
I explained to them how they and they children could host bake sales in their neighborhoods, at their schools, through their PTA’s, at their summer camps–all to benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Not only can children relate to cookies, they can help bake, package and sell cookies. It is literally a hands-on opportunity for children to become part of the solution to a problem that plagues way too many children in today’s world. What a positive way for families to nurture the seeds of empathy in their young children, and introduce them to the ways philanthropy and activism!
If families with young children bring this mission to their elementary and middle schools, children themselves can bring it to their high schools and colleges – becoming foot soldiers in the battle against pediatric cancer. Not only are such undertakings key to building a solid foundation in the making of good citizens, they also look great on college applications and future resumes.