I believe that people are inherently good. Most people anyway. Having the fundraiser for my best friend’s little girl, RaiLee, proved to me that people can be caring and kind. People I’d never met before gave very generously.
Rai had just turned 4 years old when she was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) on October 6th of this year. Since then I’ve learned a lot about it, and about the community that is affected by this terrible cancer. It’s nasty and the diagnosis is never promising. These tumors are located in the middle part of the brain stem. They grow diffusely, which means they grow between the nerves, throughout the brain stem, taking surgical removal off the table. There doesn’t seem to be any treatment that works across the board. Sometimes radiation can improve symptoms for a short time, but that’s not always the case and it’s not always an option. Some kids live years past diagnosis. Some, only weeks.
Precious RaiLee gained her angel wings on November 4th, which would’ve also been my brother’s 33rd birthday. Rai’s parents lovingly donated her tumor to a study that’s being conducted by Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati in hopes that it will bring us one step closer to a cure. RaiLee was the very first child to participate in this study who hadn’t received radiation treatment.
When I got the call that Rai was sick, it absolutely broke my heart. Once I was able to begin to think somewhat clearly, I started looking for some kind of way that I could help. I found a page on Facebook called “Sunshine Snail Mail”. It was started by a woman whose nephew battled DIPG from 1/8/14 – 2/17/15. The page connects kids who need a smile or a little “sunshine” with people who want to send it. You can send a card, a letter, small gifts like stickers or even handmade blankets, whatever you want. The “goal is to bring as many smiles to as many children as possible”. With Rai’s mom’s go-ahead, I signed her and her big sister Jaid up. I think they got a lot of mail.
The page recently started a sign up for Christmas cards so I added Jaid to the list. Last week, she even sent out some cards of her own! I love that little girl.
I’ve sent 77 Christmas cards so far. (Allen’s probably going to start rationing the amount of money I can spend on stamps!) There are so many kids with DIPG, even though they say it’s “rare”. There are so many kids with pediatric cancer of all types. I can’t imagine what these kids or families are going through, but I have an idea now. And as many tears as I cry for them, I know that’s not even a fraction of what they’re dealing with.
If you’re sending out Christmas cards this year, or if you already have, and maybe have one or two leftover, please consider sending to a child or family on this page. It’s only the cost of a stamp. But it’ll be worth so much more to the child who gets excited and smiles when they receive mail. The next time you’re shopping for a birthday card for a loved one, maybe pick up a cheery thinking of you card and drop that in the mail as well. New kids are added just about every day.
Also, if you’re shopping on Amazon this season, you can go to AmazonSmile instead. AmazonSmile is the same as Amazon, but it’s also a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to whatever charity you choose, and you can select from almost one million organizations! I highly recommend “The Cure Starts Now”, an organization dedicated to finding a homerun cure for cancer starting with pediatric brain cancer research. Rai’s parents are working on starting the first chapter in Kentucky in her name. Also, Make-a-Wish is an amazing program and they were so generous and kind to Rai’s family.