Open Hands Overflowing Hearts: Funding Research to End Childhood Cancer
Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and before she knew it, 19-year-old Kayla had been battling cancer for over a year. She suffered through everything known to her doctors to treat her neuroblastoma. Treatment left Kayla sick, skinny, and exhausted. Her doctor hoped to share her final scan result as “NED,” or “no evidence of disease,” but when he called Kayla and her family into his office one August afternoon, the news that left his mouth stung everyone’s ears.
“Your cancer is incurable,” he said. “Our goal must switch to maintenance. We will have this conversation once and only once, but you need to decide what it is you want to accomplish or experience, should this cancer take your life, and you need to do it. We will try to keep your disease at bay, but frankly, I don’t know if we can do that for six weeks, six months, or six years.”
Kayla confidently replied, “I want to go to school.” She had moved into her freshman dorm at Auburn the day before, and she was ready to be in classes like others her age. She drove back to Auburn, and she took freshman year by storm, though it did look a little different than she expected. Kayla received experimental therapies to try to slow the progression of her disease in Atlanta in the afternoons after her classes in the mornings. Though tired and sick, Kayla loved being back in school.
Alongside her classes and treatments, Kayla and her family founded Open Hands Overflowing Hearts as a way to raise money for childhood cancer research. The words “I don’t know” plagued Kayla; no one had an answer to her questions, “why,” “how,” or “what do we do?” Her passion became to eliminate those words. No longer would doctors tell patients, “I don’t know.” No longer would parents tell children, “I don’t know.” No longer would children tell their friends, “I don’t know.” Kayla wanted to eradicate childhood cancer and subsequently eradicate those three words from the vocabulary of pediatric oncologists.
Supporters of Kayla became supporters of Open Hands Overflowing Hearts. Friends, family, and total strangers came out of the woodwork to help Kayla and her cause. In the first three months of OHOH’s existence, donors raised over $300,000. Businesses were donating percentages of sales. Moms were forfeiting their Starbucks in order to donate. Children were hosting lemonade stands. Schools were challenging each other to see who could raise the most money. The momentum could have caused a tsunami.
Since those early days of fundraising for childhood cancer research, OHOH has seen miracles of epic proportions and tragedies that will rock you to your core. Children have been cured, and children have passed away. Every child’s story propels the organization further. Whether one of victory or loss, a kid’s battle with cancer moves people to action. At OHOH, we hope to shine the light on childhood cancer and raise money to fund research that will bring an end to the suffering. Please join us in our fight. One child is one too many.