2019 Year in Review

Hello and Happy New Year from Kate’s Cause! I sat down to write this post and became overwhelmed at just how BIG 2019 really was in our little corner of the world, and I just couldn’t wait to share it with you all. (I also realize how very behind I am on blogging it all!)

We had a tremendously successful birthday toy drive again this year and celebrated what would have been Kate’s 8th birthday by delivering the toys you so generously donated directly to the clinic.

Immediately after, we packed our car up and headed to Philadelphia with a $50,000 check to deliver to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for the two grants we would co-fund later in the year. While there, we were able to visit with our very first grant recipient, Dr. Christian Hurtz, PhD, and got to tour his lab, ask questions and learn how the dollars YOU spent is helping in the battle with childhood cancer. In the coming days, you’ll hear all about the two new research teams we’ve chosen!

Perhaps one of the most rewarding moments of the year was being able to dedicate Kate’s Book Nook to the clinic with over 500 brand new books thanks to YOUR donations! We decorated the space fit for any dinosaur loving love bug and presented a $10,000 check to Inova Children’s Hospital.

After the busy summer, we entered into September and worked really hard to ready ourselves to entertain 500 of our closest friends with Kegs & Corks for Kids Cancer! Even more special this year, was that the creator of the event and Kate’s nurse, traveled across the world to be there for the event as well as the weekend following in Wisconsin. The two events totally blew us away by raising a combined $43,101.24 for us to continue our research grant work well into 2020.

We launched a brand new merch line! We raised our voices at CureFest once again this year and we hosted the clinic’s Halloween party for patients, families and staff! We had a fantastic event at Kendra Scott for Giving Tuesday! And we wrapped up the year giving our 2019 Kate’s Kindness Award to a very deserving candidate.

All of this because of YOU.

As we settle into our season of deepest grief as the fourth anniversary of Kate’s departure for Heaven, it is so important that we pause and extend our truly heartfelt appreciation for you. Without you, there would be no us. Because of you, we get to keep our promise. Because of you, we get to do for them.

We are humbled and oh so very grateful and we hope you’ll join us for another amazing ride in 2020. It’s the year for vision. Clarity. Let’s find that cure together! Until Childhood Cancer is Extinct!

2019 Impact Report

When we decided to co-fund grants with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, we were especially thrilled about the fact that we would get annual impact reports and status updates from the researcher on the project. We have been fortunate to forge a relationship with Dr. Hurtz over the last year (and some months) and were able to visit him in June and tour his lab.

We are pleased to share here the 2019 impact report for Dr. Hurtz’s research to show you how our grant is being put to work.

My Grief Secret

I miss and often long for those early days of grief. The ones when everyone understood that my world had ended. The ones where she was just here yesterday or last week. Or last month. The ones where her juice, milk and snacks were still in the refrigerator and her cups were in the dishwasher. The ones where the towels in her bathroom were still damp from the night before. Or where her books and toys lay out from when she last played.

I miss and often long for those days because I could still smell her and feel her physically in our home. Her laundry basket held clothes she’d just worn. When I slept, I still woke expecting to find her. Expecting that reality was actually a nightmare and my life WASN’T really turned upside down.

I miss and often long for the days when it was accepted, embraced and expected that I cry and wail in sounds my voice now only makes in the stillness of my mind or in the privacy of when I am alone. When all that was expected of me was to ache, mourn, speak of her in the present tense, wonder out loud how on God’s green Earth this happened? When putting on a show, getting “better” at this fake life or being asked, however gently, to “move forward” wasn’t even conceivable.

I miss when my world had just stopped turning and when it had stopped for everyone around me, too. When Kate’s name was on the lips, in the hearts and in the soft-spoken sound of prayers from those around us. I miss when the pain was so overwhelming, I just didn’t even bother to get off my knees.

Now? I am expected to stand. I am expected to fake it. I am expected to move forward. I am expected to be better. I am expected to smile at the thought of her before I cry at the thought of missing her. 3 and a half years later, I miss being understood to the point where I didn’t have to explain myself.

Time doesn’t move in a way I understand anymore. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to go back long, long before I had a grief secret to keep. Long before I understood what could, and ultimately did, actually happen. There isn’t a single part of me that doesn’t wish for that every day. But as the days and hours pass, I still find that I bargain with God. Myself. The Universe. For what, I don’t even understand anymore. When she lived, when she was here, when she was real…THAT is what’s starting to feel like a dream. I’m losing my memories of her and it’s happened so, so fast. Too fast. I’m starting to forget what it felt like to be mommy. I’m forgetting what it felt like to live in that world of family. It’s where I felt most at home. It’s where I felt the most myself. There, I am still mommy. There…is where she is.

But. My grief secret is that I’d also go back to when this loss and pain was fresh and new. Because there, Kate was as much a part of other people’s lives as she is mine. Because it was so raw, I could remember that life with such ease. Afterall, it was just yesterday. Last week. Last month. Because in this new world of normal that is anything but, walking around with my broken heart bleeding and oozing from my chest as a bereaved mother is  the only place I feel naturally myself after the sun abruptly set on the life I once knew and cherished so deeply.

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…

Kate: In Her Own Words

I’ve sat down numerous times over the last several years, wanting to write about Kate, or her Mommy, or her Mommy and Daddy. I’ve wanted to express how deeply Kate touched my heart and make sure Mike and Lindsay know that we are here for them no matter what, no matter when, no matter how. You see, I’m not a writer, I don’t do well expressing my feelings on paper, I just don’t, and that’s ok. But on the eve of Mother’s Day, one of the hardest of all holidays, I want her to know how much she is loved,
admired, respected and appreciated.

Her name is Lindsay White Rhoades, she’s Kate’s Mommy and one
of the best Mommy’s I’ve ever been fortunate to know. I met Lindsay in May of 2013, when she was still Lindsay White. Thanks to YEO, we traveled to cool places together, had some amazing experiences, and laughed…a LOT. She met her amazing husband Mike, who could appreciate the fact that I made fun of his soon to be wife when she tripped as she was heading down the aisle to marry him. He’s smart, funny, kind, and has a heart of gold, he loves a good debate and brown spirits.

On June 5, 2011 Kate Olivia arrived and completed their little family, sweet,
beautiful, perfect Kate. That lovable girl held the hearts of everyone she met, and she continues to embrace the hearts of those that didn’t have that privilege. I was blessed that on two separate occasions she sat in my lap to take a few selfies and to open presents for her birthday.

When we have children we look forward to and hold onto the small things, the I wuv you’s, the wet kisses, the hugs that are so warm and slobbery but you never want to let go, the joy that, at the moment, your child wants to be with you and only you, the cuddles under warm blankets on a cold day,
the joy of bubbles or of jumping in puddles, their perfect little hands and feet, talking about Parasaurolophus and their friends, watching your child take “schnoozies”, or that your child’s favorite color is the rainbow because she didn’t want to leave any colors out, and the giggles, the wonderful
giggles. We have all witnessed that pure joy in Lindsay from the moment Kate entered this world.

Lindsay is a prolific writer, you feel the raw emotion in her ability to capture moments perfectly, as she expresses her feelings so vividly. That beautiful, smart, kind, brave, strong, wonderful, loving woman is making sure that none of us forget Kate, that her death will not be in vain, and founded Kate’s Cause to do just that. Lindsay makes things happens. She has an ability to rally people and get things done.

Losing a child is the loneliest, most desolate journey a person can take and only those that have experienced such a thing can understand. Mike and Lindsay have joined the exclusive club of people who have experienced a grief so deep that is truly immeasurable to those who haven’t. Those of us who know her well, those that have met her through the loss of their own child, and those of you who have been drawn to follow her have all been witness to the undeniable strength, resilience, perseverance and true love she possesses.

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I ask that we continue to remember Kate, if you see something that reminds you of Kate, tell Lindsay, speak Kate’s name, share your favorite picture, tell stories of your interaction with her and don’t be afraid to ask about Kate, to want to know more. Lindsay and Mike will tell you anything you want to hear. Know that we can’t fix this, as much as we want to, and accept how broken they will always be without Kate and be ok with providing the love and support they need. Understand when they need time out and that not a day goes by that isn’t a struggle.

The toy drive is still running , just a few more weeks to buy a toy for the clinic, or make a donation; $4 for how old Kate was when she became an angel, $12 for the date that Mother’s Day falls on this year, or any amount that works for you. Let’s give her the best Mother’s Day we can, knowing that this is one of the worst for her, and because she deserves a good one and so much more.

It is a privilege to call her my friend and I am forever grateful for her. Thank you, Lindsay, for all that do, the world is a better place with you in it.

Happy Mother’s Day, my dear friend. I love you!

Katherine: In Her Own Words

The Kate’s Cause Birthday Toy Drive is always a little bittersweet for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it’s a perfectly Kate way to give back to the community. But, it also makes me think about the utter joy on her face as she opened presents. It didn’t really matter the occasion or what was under the wrapping paper, she loved opening gifts. You’re probably thinking what kid doesn’t, and that’s true. But with Kate, it was as much about getting the gift as it was about her wanting you to know just how much she appreciated it.

I remember sitting on the couch at Lindsay and Mike’s house with a present I was pretty sure she would love. It was 2014, she was in the middle of treatment and it was a particularly tough time. As I watched her open it, she watched me out of the corner of her eye, pausing to oooh and aaah every so often, gently pulling off the wrapping paper. As she pulled the Pteranodon wings out of the paper, she started grinning ear-to-ear. For the next 15 or so minutes, she flew around the room being chased by her daddy wearing a T-rex head. It was 15 minutes of perfection. The memory is so strong that I can close my eyes and replay it in my head. It’s how I often think of her now — flying around, being goofy, with a big grin on her face. I always stop when I see toys in the store. I look for ones that I’m pretty sure she would like, and I think about her and those wings.

If you haven’t had a chance, take a look at the toy drive list. Find a toy that makes you smile. Think about the joy it would bring to kiddos fighting for their lives, and help Kate’s Cause bring an ear-to-ear grin to another beautiful face.

Easter After Great Loss

I missed sunrise service at Kate’s Place today, the sweet garden in the back of our church and in front of the preschool where Kate spent her days the last four months of her life.

I say “our” church as if we attend regularly. Truthfully, we don’t. I’d like to, but only recently did Pastor Gary retire. I couldn’t hear his voice without thinking of her funeral and, well, that’s just not something I aim to revisit. There is a new Pastor, who Kate’s Grandma really likes. I wanted to go…they held the sunrise service there today because “it’s the prettiest place we have.” Truth…on so many levels.

Like many, Easter used to be mostly about the bunny, the eggs and the chocolate. Only in the crushing pain of Kate’s death do I truly understand the power of what today means and how it has changed everything about my life.

Easter and the promise of eternal life in Heaven…it’s what I live for now. 
But. I read this blog early this morning, when I’d hoped to be at church and it summed it up precisely why I was missing that service I’d so hoped to attend. I am still “Saturday people” afterall. I am still reeling over what happened just yesterday, and I don’t yet KNOW what will come.

I have learned and come to completely believe that our separation is temporary, but knowing she waits for me often makes the pains of today harder. Why? How come? Well…because my hope in the future does not lessen the pain of my today.

Because today, I’d really like to have an almost 8 year old on a sugar high running through the grass and pink cherry tree petals of my front yard. I’d really like to know who she is and what makes her tick today. I’d really like to know if she’d ever eat jelly beans and I’d really like to not have to miss her like I do.

Miss her I do. Today and every day. I love you Kate. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.

And because He is Risen, I really do mean forever.