The Mind Behind the Magic

In 2018, for Kate’s birthday, Kate’s Cause awarded its very first grant check of $25,000 to Dr. Christian Hurtz, PhD, for a co-funded young investigator grant with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

This week, for Kate’s birthday, we got to meet Dr. Hurtz in person. I can’t even really describe what it was like; seeing the lab, hearing from his mentors and learning about the research. But even moreso, what truly got to us, what TRULY inspired us was watching Doctors Hurtz, Tasian and Carroll connect the personal dots to the money awarded for this grant. This research can exist because KATE LIVED.

The three of them were so generous with their time. They gladly answered questions, and asked them in return. They told us repeatedly how much it meant to them for us to be there, to take part in helping make those personal stories part of their approach. They shared stories about how this grant money allowed him to share successes and apply for (and receive!) further grants towards this research. Dr. Hurtz was awarded the 2019 American Society of Hematology Scholar Award in part…because KATE LIVED.

After visiting the lab, we toured the day hospital (what we call the clinic) at CHOP with Dr. Tasian, the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Oncology, Center for Childhood Cancer Research. For us? Not a bad way to spend the day…not a bad way at all. We left behind a little Kate love to some of the patients we encountered (no photos for obvious reasons) but I wanted to rush in and wrap every single patient and parent in hugs. I hope our knowing glances, smiles and waves did the trick, but I wished I could have done so much more. Mike got high fives from two sweet loves in the play room, and I could have stayed all day.

They showed us the oncology and transplant unit a CHOP, a soberingly HUGE operation. Their unit was as large as our entire children’s hospital; I kid you not. We were even gifted the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gerald Wertheim, Pathologist, Hematopatholgy Lab, to hear about how his work coincides with the team at UPenn.

It was an overwhelming day. There were moments it got personally hard to take, but most of that I’ll save just for me. As we were leaving, and I looked out toward the building, knowing how many of my friends’ children were treated here, understanding that we were leaving with Kate’s Cause money in the very best hands with Dr. Hurtz and team, I felt an unquenched NEED to do more.

KATE LIVED. And I won’t rest until I’ve kept my promise.

With the utmost gratitude, I say thank you to Doctors Hurtz, Tasian, Carroll and Wertheim, for their time, care and understanding. This visit truly made an impact and I promise to do more.

When Life Hands You Lemons…

…you either taste the bitter juice and let it twist your face into knots or you add a little sugar, find the sweetness and make one giant pitcher of lemonade…to share.

We were asked several times this week “why carry on? Why continue in the fight? Why not curl up in bed?” As Mike and I were asked this question by several people, we realized that our answer was always the same. “We have to. We just have to.” For us it is that simple and that “easy” of an answer, though the actual process of doing so is not always so easy. It’s never simple. It’s making a choice day in and day out to face the absolute horror of our lives, to CHOOSE to tell Kate’s story over and over, to hurt to our core each and every day because the only reason IT exists is because she no longer physically does. It’s the belly of the beast every day and I am constantly aware of childhood cancer and constantly wanting and longing to do more, limited by real life “things” and responsibilities, never knowing if we’re doing enough.

Liz & Jay Scott are no different from us. They are parents. They are Alex’s parents. And during the busiest time of year for their team of nearly 60 (!!) at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, they opened their office and their time to us and made us fee like we were important. They made us feel like we ARE doing enough. Like we are exactly where we are meant to be with our grant co-sponsorship with them, and it was never more apparent than this week.

Liz & Jay sat with us, talked with us about our goals, about what we hoped for Kate’s Cause. They asked us about our events, about our strategies, gave us amazing tips and advice and asked about Kate. We were interviewed by their PR team about why we chose to co-sponsor a grant with ALSF and about why working with them has been so beneficial for us, as a small organization.

I am thrilled beyond beleif to share that while there, Kate’s Cause awared another $50,000 to fund TWO grants in 2019, bringing our total funding to $75,000 in just one year.

The first will be an Innovation Grant, designed to provide critical and significant seed funding for experienced investigators with a novel and promising approach to finding causes and cures for childhood cancers. This will be awarded to a project of our choosing in July, followed by a Reach Grant, designed to move hypothesis-driven research into the clinic. The two year grant is intended to fund developmental therapeutic studies in the late stage of preclinical testing and will be awarded to a project of our choosing in November.

I don’t have any facny photos to share. I don’t have any pictures of us with the team or snapshots of, well, anything. All I have is this photo of our big check and a bag full of dinosaurs. And a full and grateful heart for our supporters and donors, allowing us the opportunity to be a part of something so inspiring and exciting as these grant opportunities with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

To the Clinic…and Beyond!

We have just settled back at home after a whirlwind four days of activity celebrating Kate’s birthday. I have so much to say and share so I’ve decided to do so in three posts to give each special day its own attention. Each day seemed better, more moving, more inspiring than the last and each day, I felt more and more like we are exactly where we need to be and my passion for this cause grows on.

Wednesday marked Kate’s 8th birthday; her fourth in Heaven. We started out the day as we’ve done in the past few years, with balloons and pancakes, and we headed to pick up our UHAUL van to load up the 25+ bins & boxes of toys! Truthfully, I lost count as to how many toys and prizes were donated this year, but suffice it to say, it was A LOT.

We first delivered to the hospital, where our beloved Dr. Dulman met us for hugs. Then, we were off to the brand new clinic, which Daddy & Grandma got to see for the very first time. We were met with those who knew and love Kate; some of her nurses, her art therapist and child life specialist. They love the toy drive as much as we do and were so grateful for the support.

Along with the toys, we were able to deliver 12 cases of Girl Scout cookies thanks to our sweet friends at Troop 3015, who had these donated to us for the families in the clinic!

After delivery, Mike & I packed up the car and the big check and headed north to Philly where the whirlwind really began…