Saturday, November 23, 2013

Big Shots and Little Stars

We were honored to participate in a terrific event on Tuesday.  Flashes of Hope held their annual “Big Shots and Little Stars” show with support of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lake Erie Monsters at the Quicken Loan Arena.  The theme was James Bond and there were over 1400 people at the event which benefited Flashes of Hope and the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
Allison Clarke, who founded both Flashes of Hope and Kick It, feels passionately about pediatric cancer.  Her son Quinn, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at age 2.  Like Brent, Quinn has had a tough road.  He also, incidentally, is missing half of his pelvis. 
Allison, who learned of our troubles through mutual friends, reached out to us early in Brent’s diagnosis, relating in a very personal way to what our journey was like.  She took plenty of time on the phone to provide a sympathetic ear to me when I had few around me who could really appreciate the challenges that we have faced.  Later, she contacted doctors that she knew, as we looked for better surgical options for Brent.  I will always be grateful for her efforts and for her kindness.
The circumstances that might cause some people live in anger have served as Allison’s motivation.  She has turned something truly horrible into something that will make a difference for others. When Quinn was recovering from pelvic surgery over 10 years ago, his roommate, a two year old, succumbed to his disease.  Quinn, then only four years old, expressed how sad he was to lose his friend and regretted that there were no photos of him.
That moment, that singular comment from her son, was a seed of inspiration planted in her mind.  Allison went on to form the non-profit Flashes of Hope.  The mission of this charity is twofold:  To photograph every child with cancer until every child is cured.  Professional photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists volunteer their time and talent, going to hospitals, cancer clinics and oncology camps.  Children, many in the midst of treatment, are offered the opportunity to have beautiful photos taken with siblings, or parents or even sometimes, a beloved doctor or nurse.  
This is an amazingly beautiful gift. While a photo with your child, particularly during the uncertainly of treatment is meaningful, harrowed parents are not likely to have the time, the energy, or the thought, to go to a photographer during their “off time.”  In the hospital, particularly, it is a blessing to have these kind people come and capture moments of tenderness, of joy, of love.
I learned at Tuesday’s event that the beautiful black and white photos have been processed and printed at White House Custom Colour in Minneapolis.  CEO Mike Hanline refused the request to discount the cost of the photos, insisting instead upon donating every proof and enlargement.  As Flashes of Hope has grown, now photographing 7,000 children per year, this gentleman donates over 150,000 beautiful prints annually.  Stunning.
I am brought to tears thinking about the gift that these folks bring to families in the midst of great struggle.  The photos can serve as a reminder of how difficult the journey has been and can be a celebration of what a child has overcome.  Or sadly, they might be the last photos that a family has of their child, capturing a moment filled with dignity and love, in the midst of battle. 
This first part of Flashes of Hope’s mission, which is active in over 55 cities, taps into the time and talent of many generous people to positively impact families in a direct way.  This is a worthy cause, all on its own.  But the second part of the mission is to support pediatric cancer research. 
Tuesday’s event took my breath away.  Through the support of Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavs, and over 1,400 Clevelanders, $950,000 was raised for pediatric cancer research.  I was really struck by something that I read in the program: 

“We had no business getting a meeting with Dan Gilbert in 2009.  With just three paid staff members, we held the “Big Shots and Little Stars” runway event in a mall.  We asked Dan if the Cavs players could participate in the show, which we hoped could be held at the arena. To our amazement, he said yes.  He helped take the event to the next level and the level after that!”

Lauren, Dan Gilbert, Alex and Brent

I am astonished at the generosity of strangers and the ability that some like Allison have, to harness that generosity in order to accomplish great things.  I am inspired by how boldly she asked, and how enthusiastic the support has been, both of particular individuals, as well as the community at large.  The advances in understanding and eventually conquering pediatric cancer cannot come too soon.  With this kind of support, research can move forward faster. I am so grateful for it all.

Part of why I have been talking about this organization is because Allison called me while we were in NYC over the summer and asked if we would be willing to share our story at the event.  We agreed, happy to help this organization in any way that we could. They interviewed us a couple of months ago and put together a video which they showed at the event:

It was an honor to be associated with an organization whose goals are so worthy, and who partners with the Children’s Oncology Group, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, The Children’s Tumor Foundation, Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, and Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.  It was a wonderful evening for our family.  Should you be interested in donating time, talent, or money to Flashes of Hope, I have included the link to their website below.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing event, made even better by having you all share your story!! The video is takes special people to take tragic circumstances and find hope within them, and then share the hope with all of us. Our paths may have different names, but I continue to be touched and inspired by your words and your beautiful family...loved getting to "know" you all a little better through the video!!! Hugs and prayers being sent.