There is no greater joy than hearing the sound of your baby’s first cry. After months of waddling around, hormonal swings, caffeine and alcohol deprivation, late night ice cream and waffle cravings – the birth of your healthy child is a gift that no words can ever adequately describe. Life will never be the same…
In a perfect world – the story only gets better. The time line of your child’s life begins and all the wonderment that you anticipated and hoped for will surly be all you ever dreamed it would be. Days go by and first words are spoken as first steps are mastered and your beautiful baby grows into a perfectly perfect child.
But we all know this life is not the storybook we want it to always be. Sometimes our worst fears become the reality of how we must live our lives. Sometimes the innocent wonder and sweetness are transformed and changed forever with a few simply spoken words. “I am sorry – your child has cancer.”
Cancer does not care about sexuality or race. Cancer does not care about anything at all. Every 3.5 minutes a child on this planet is diagnosed with cancer. Every 3.5 minutes a family is changed forever and a child is asked to fight the battle of their life.
There is an organization out there that is taking the fight against childhood cancer to new battlefields. St. Baldrick’s is a foundation driven by and focused on funding the research needed to once and for all eradicate the words “childhood cancer” from our vocabulary. This army, which is volunteer driven, has raised more money and provided more private funding for research than any other organization – except the US Government. That is a hell of an accomplishment for what started as a challenge between friends in 2000 and has since raised over $117,000,000.00.
There is someone in our community who is about to go to war on childhood cancer and I wanted to make sure she did not go to battle alone.
I have never met Amy Kelly. I see her on Facebook and have heard her crazy ass cool voice belt out a song or two – but we have never officially met. I noticed she was putting together an event to benefit St. Baldrick’s and wanted to touch base and share her story and her reasons and her efforts to raise money for this incredibly worthwhile cause.
Amy is one of 8 kids. Those Irish Catholics know how to make those babies! The tomboy in her heart grew up running around the neighborhood keeping up with the boys. The Kelly family was large and inviting and from what I could tell – there was rarely a dull moment. I got the feeling that family was everything and the loyalty, traditions and love for each other was ever present in Amy’s life.
It was Amy’s brother Sean who participated in March 2010 as a “shavee” for a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser. Sean Kelly was the sibling born ahead of Amy in the Kelly Clan. She said they fought like kids tend to fight but were the best of friends as well. Sean was known as a “great guy” and “golden boy”. He lit up a room when he entered; he was special, true blue and the kind of guy who adults and children alike were naturally drawn to. He gave back to the world he so enthusiastically lived in, volunteering for various organizations and looking outside of himself to consistently and unselfishly make the world a brighter place.
On November 21, 2010, Sean was tragically killed in a plane crash on his way back from a surfing trip with a couple of friends. Amy says it is the single hardest thing she has ever had to face. She told me, “Sean gave so much of himself in life and he continued giving in death – he was an organ donor. Not only did he give selflessly in life, he did so even in death.”
What does not destroy us must certainly make us stronger – make us better – take us deeper into this life of ours and to the places we are meant to be. Amy decided to host a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s foundation as a legacy to her brother Sean. “I believe Sean would have kept doing this if he were still with us. I’ve seen this disease up close and when I think of kids having to go through it – it gives me more reason to host this event.”
I wondered, but already knew the answer, if Amy had any reservations about shaving her head for the cause. “None. It’s only hair. It’ll grow back. I want to stand in solidarity with kids that have cancer and with everyone in my life that has been affected by this disease. Cancer is a horrible disease. My sister Sarah is a breast cancer survivor – I think if we all talked about it – we’d all know someone who has been affected by this disease. Besides – I have hair that grows quicker than a Chia Pet – so I have no fear.”
In the time it took me to put these words to paper – 17 children were diagnosed with cancer. 17 families had their lives changed forever. We can all make a difference – we can all take a stand – we can all lend a hand. Join me as I join Amy Kelly’s army on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at Spyner’s Pub to fight for advancements in funding for childhood cancer research.
Visit Amy’s link to her event and consider being a part of the fight.
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.