Bringing Joy to Life: CCA’s 2019 Wonderball

Portland’s community of Joy-seekers, change-makers, and visionary dreamers brought a buzz of excitement and energy to this year’s Wonderball Gala: Joie de Vivre. While experiencing the delights of French culture, the true meaning of the night wasn’t lost. Together we raised $1.27 million which will directly provide the healing power of music, friendship, and nature to children and their families facing serious illness.

Joy is a Necessity

At Children’s Cancer Association (CCA), Joy is a crucial emotion – one which we seek to study, to learn from, and to evoke in the lives of children facing difficult and scary diagnoses.

Keynote speaker, founder, and Chief Joy Officer, Regina Ellis, said, “When we started CCA 24 years ago, Joy was just a beautiful idea. My daughter Alex had been diagnosed with cancer. She was three years old. Two and half years later she died in our arms. But in those 731 days, Alex changed us. She knew, she instinctively knew, how to access Joy. How to get back to herself and create the life she needed to live, moment by moment. Joy changes us, and it changes the people around us. Joy is a basic human need. Like air and water, and love. And no matter who you are or where you’re at, you deserve that whole-body transformative power of Joy. And that is the medicine the world needs right now.”

A Life Lived for Joy

Guest speaker, Heidi, shared how finding Joy in music was the distraction her daughter, Holly, needed during cancer treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma. “The MyMusicRx musicians stayed by our side during Holly’s years of treatment infusing Joyful moments into an otherwise scary time in our lives.

They were there when she was back in the hospital after she relapsed, and when she was too sad and sick to sing with them, their music brought her peace and comfort. She told me more than once that when she grew up, she wanted to be a MyMusicRx Specialist. She loved what these people did for her and wanted the chance to give back. She would have done an amazing job.”

Now, even after Holly’s passing, Heidi treasures the Joyous memories they created together through human connection, music, and laughter.

Holly Bruno and The Decemberists

“I often asked Holly how she felt about going to the hospital,” reflected Heidi. “I still can’t believe that her response was most often positive. She was always so excited to be with her Chemo Pal Mentor, Mandy, and knew that she could go to the hospital and feel loved, and special, and spoiled.

CCA was there for us when our journey with cancer started and they were there for us at the very end.”

Joy in Unexpected Places

Joy is special that way – it carries us through hardship as nothing else can. The night’s young adult speaker, Levi, discovered that Joy could be found in the most unexpected places. First with his Chemo Pal mentor, Jay, and second through his stay at the Alexandra Ellis Caring Cabin.

“It’s not always easy to be happy when you have literal poison getting pumped through your vein, Jay understood that. There were days when we would just sit in silence, but he understood it was still important to be there for me. Every time a Chemo Pal Mentor enters that hospital, they are given the opportunity to enrich a child’s life, providing wellness and hope.”

Levi is just one of the thousands of kids who have visited the Alexandra Ellis Caring Cabin. It’s a place for kids and their families to reconnect with each other and with nature.

“Every kid who visits the CCA Caring Cabin gets a personalized rock,” shared Levi. “There are thousands of rocks each in a different place set there by a different kid, some who have survived, others who have not. It’s an emotional walk.

As I was walking down this path with my family, I passed these three twigs that called themselves “trees,” they were weak and frail and nothing impressive, but then a thought occurred to me: One day these twigs will grow, they will grow tall and develop strong roots and they will be healthy. So, I placed my rock between these three twigs to symbolize MY journey and to represent my fight for survivorship.

I recently thought about that rock and wondered about those trees. I asked CCA to send me a photo. This is the new picture of my rock. And, those aren’t twigs anymore. That tree is thriving, just like me.

Our most humble gratitude goes to each and every guest in attendance at the 2019 Wonderball gala – we appreciate the generosity and shared vision of what the future can hold for children and teens in hospitals across the nation. Thank you for believing in the healing power of Joy.

If you were unable to attend, you can still provide Joy to pediatric patients by making a donation to support CCA programming.


We’d also like to extend our gratitude to CCA’s Young Professionals Board for hosting the Wonderball afterparty, Joie Rocks! Highlights from the event to come.