When I was in my twenties I worked as a sports reporter/producer for KMOX Radio and part of my duties included writing sportscasts for Bob Costas, who got his start there. It was that Bob Costas who rose to fame as a network baseball and football announcer, then the Kentucky Derby, and the platform most everyone, even non-sports fans, know him from: The Olympics. He was a friend and mentor.
Several years after my time at KMOX I was a young mother with three nieces and our family received the terrible news that my youngest niece, Annie, had cancer. It was so devastating we could not even say the word; we used phrases like “they found a spot on her brain” or “she has a brain tumor.” Annie was so amazing at what she had to endure at age six, and we would accompany her to her treatments. The first day I went I looked up at the door on the cancer center and it said, “Bob Costas Center.”
I felt both a sickening sense of “Wow, we’re really here at the Bob Costas Center” and at the same time the more positive feeling of “Bob will help us!” I remember calling him up and asking if he could connect me with someone who had a niece with this rare cancer who had lived through it. I needed inspiration. I needed motivation. Though up until then his involvement had been raising the funds for the hospital, he was kind enough to call the person in charge of the center at the time who then called me.
The words the head of a cancer center (who is no longer there) gave me were less than inspirational.
“Well the type of cancer your niece has is so rare, no one survives.”
To hear something that negative when I just wanted a little sliver of something to hold on to was unbearable. That was the day I decided I would do all I could to help families of children with cancer so they would have hope and never hear that type of reasoning. All that guy had to do was find an aunt of a curly headed kid who had survived any type of cancer at all and let me know she overcame it. He didn’t have to zoom in on the negatives.
Unless we have specifically had a child in that situation we cannot know the horror they face on a daily basis, but we can imagine part of it and do all we can to help and support them.
So we put on a party at the hospital and invited several local celebrities including Costas to come. The party was so successful we incorporated into a 501 (c)(3) charity and have been helping families—for no pay—for 20 years. The all-volunteer-run Rainbows for Kids is celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year; 20 years of fun events and parties for the families as well as positive resources. The resources are as important as the events because they offer that hope to those families. If hope is gone, all is lost.
This year with a grant from NAILBA we will be holding a special party, September 15, with the theme of “Be Your Own Hero.” There will be two rooms—a Mom’s Spa Room where the mothers of children with cancer will be having a nice lunch and then they can get massages, manicures, and new hairstyles. The kids will be down the hall having a party with our volunteers.
The Mom’s will be treated to an inspirational talk and presented with the book, Choose Happy: Finding Contentment in Any Situation—the book that NAILBA granted funds for us to produce. Having a Journalism degree and background affords me the credentials to write this book—my 13th—and have it published. It’s full of beautiful color photographs and stories of amazing people who have endured tough times but were able to live their lives, such as they were at the time—and actually have some happiness.
NAILBA is the greatest organization ever, because you all care so much about people. You cared enough about a misfit bunch of kids in middle America to bestow us this wonderful grant and we did everything we could to turn that money into the best thing we could give these families: Hope.
The book is filled with stories about regular people—and famous people. These stories can give the reader something to look forward to. Something to hold on to. One of those mentioned in the book was Olympic star Gail Devers who overcame an extreme medical situation, so imagine the happiness when I saw a quote from our old friend Bob Costas about her: “We’re used to comeback stories in the world of sports, but the Gail Devers story is remarkable. This is a comeback from an illness which almost killed her.”
All of our kids are remarkable comeback stories no matter what stage they are in, and their parents’ bravery is beyond comprehension. Thank you for believing that Choose Happy was worthy of being in this world and specifically in the hands of these families. The world just got a little happier, and these families have a tangible thing to hold in their hands in the waiting room, the hospital room, at home or wherever they are, when they need that little dose of encouragement.