Each year the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA) recognizes 12 local children and teens for their outstanding heroism in the face of serious illness. This month will mark the 20th year of the CCA Heroes program. Before ushering in our newest 2017 Heroes, we checked in with a few from years past.
1997 Hero, Molly Thompson
Molly was one of CCA’s earliest Heroes, nominated in 1997, the same year that she was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma. Her treatment involved intense chemo sessions and multiple trips out of the state. Still, Molly never slowed down. She enjoyed glitter, confetti, and macaroni and cheese. She played, met friends, and when she didn’t think there were enough toys in the hospital toy room, led her family on a trip to find more.
A Life Fully Lived with Cancer
Just a year later in October 1998, Molly died, but the spirit she left behind was not lost on her family and friends. Molly’s parents Mike and Wendy, joined CCA as Chemo Pal Mentors and her sister, Bree, went on to work at CCA as a Chemo Pal Specialist for almost four years. Wendy was kind enough to share with us memories of Molly’s incredible love.
“Molly was the leader of her war with cancer. We opened ourselves up to listen to our young child and learned she was wise beyond her years. We learned her cues, we answered her requests, and we made life happen for her, knowing it would be short. She changed us as a family and as people. We love harder, became unbreakable together, we help others, we share, and we have a lot of fun in our life. It’s the lessons she taught us and it’s the gift she left us. She showed us to look outside of ourselves – that’s a real hero.
Miles from Molly
19 years after her death, Molly continues to make an impact on the community. Wendy said, “When Molly died, she asked us to take care of her hospital friends. Miles from Molly/Molly Thompson Memorial raises money for hospitalized kids. We give to Randall Children’s Hospital and help fund their celebrations. We support CCA’s Chemo Pal Mentor Program, Make a Wish, and volunteer with all of them.
Our family has also spoken publicly about grief and survival for parents and siblings. The three of us have spent our time and efforts on fundraisers in her honor and that helps us feel active in her life.”
2009 Hero, Eli Walker
When CCA nominated Eli as a Hero, he was a kid with a great sense of humor who loved to make other people laugh. He enjoyed bumper cars, video games, playing with his brothers, and eating nachos. For a five-year-old, Eli had a wonderfully positive outlook on life.
Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in September of 2007, Eli underwent years of daily chemo. In October of 2008, he was paralyzed by his treatment and faced months of physical therapy for Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a complication of chemotherapy).
Working and Playing Hard
Today, Eli is thirteen-years-old and is now six and a half years off treatment. He plays soccer, runs cross-country, and is involved with the Boy Scouts. He is looking forward to working on his Eagle Project this summer – building and installing trail markers for the new city mountain bike path. Eli also enjoys his theater class and has landed some roles in school productions of “The Jungle Book” and “Elf Jr.”
Launi, Eli’s mom, says that after all these years Eli is still a role model for what it means to be a hero. “Eli is kind, has a big heart, takes care of others, and is a good friend. He does not dwell on the past or use cancer as an excuse. He works hard to overcome the deficiencies cancer brought into his life.”
2010 Hero, Levi Seed
When Levi was nominated as a hero, he was just 14-years-old. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in September 2008, Levi went through tough chemotherapy treatments, nausea, severe allergic reactions, and painful shots. But Levi took it all in stride. When asked what advice he has for other children diagnosed with cancer, Levi said, “Keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward. Get a cool Chemo Pal and have a good sense of humor and play pranks on the doctors and nurses. Most importantly, live every day as if it were your last!”
Recently, Levi celebrated his 21st birthday with friends and family. Although Levi will have to go in for check-ups every year for the rest of his life, he is happy to report that he’s been almost five years off chemo.
What the Future Holds
While Levi’s positive attitude has remained the same, his aspirations and hobbies have grown. He attended culinary school for two and a half years, where his passion and skill for cooking was honed. He currently works as a sous-chef in Portland and hopes one day to own his own restaurant/vineyard, and even to become a Master Sommelier.
When asked how he still embodies the spirit of a CCA Hero, Levi responded, “I like to try to be involved with the community by supporting others and their journeys. I do a lot of work at my church, including a trip to Mexico where I helped build houses. A lot of being a hero comes through my faith which I found through treatments.”
Levi with his Chemo Pal
Thanks to Our Heroes!
CCA’s Heroes are inspirations for all who have had the pleasure to know them. Our 2017 Celebration of Courage will be live-streamed on our Facebook page for anyone who is interested in viewing. Please make sure to like our page and tune in on May 30th at 5:30 pm to meet our 2017 class of CCA Heroes!