In 2007, Karen’s life changed dramatically when her granddaughter, Lauren, was diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia. Karen witnessed firsthand the pain and hardship her granddaughter faced, but there was one thing which helped them all get through it; Music.
Music was an essential part of Karen’s upbringing, and she had instilled that love of music in Lauren. From the age of five, Lauren was singing in musicals and had found a hobby that would later become critical to her health and happiness.
Not Just a Sick Kid
Karen recalls a few moments when music helped Lauren. “At her first hospital visit, Lauren was pretty sick, but as a group of singers came down the hall (dressed like elves) singing Christmas Carols. Lauren sat up in bed and joined in. She even taught the carolers the second verse to one of their songs. Her dad stepped into the room, heard her singing, and burst into tears. It was an incredible gift to Lauren as well as to her dad. In Lauren’s words, ‘Music makes me feel like a kid, not just a sick kid.’
In 2009, to the immense relief of her family, Lauren went into remission, but Karen’s journey had just begun. Having seen the impact music and the arts can have on a child in the hospital, she set out to do something incredible. At the age of 70, Karen pledged to swim the same number of laps as her age, a triumphant return to a past passion, while raising money for the Children’s Cancer Association’s MyMusicRx program.
Karen’s love for swimming started at a young age. In high school, she joined a synchronized swimming group called the Synchronettes. “I graduated in 1959. We didn’t have female swimming competitions in those days because it wasn’t ‘lady-like,’ but we could do water ballet, which is tougher than racing because we had to have incredible strength and control over our breath.
I initially returned to swimming after I had a spinal fusion in my back. It was the only exercise I could do without pain. That’s when I met an 86-year-old woman who swam a mile (36 laps) twice a week. She had also been a synchronized swimmer and encouraged me to swim 70 laps to honor my 70th birthday,” Karen remembered.
After successfully completing all 70 laps, Karen was motivated by the support she received and what had started as an idea, quickly became a passion, and seven years later she’s still fundraising. “I swam 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Each year, I increased my laps to match my age. My last swim was when I turned 75. Throughout those five years, we’ve raised a total of $10,376. There is no way we could contribute that much on our own.”
No Sign of Stopping
The future is looking bright for Karen’s granddaughter, and she couldn’t be more proud. “Lauren is graduating with Honors in psychology and a minor in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound. She is a smart, beautiful, talented young woman and CCA’s MyMusicRx program had a part in that.”
More recently, swimming was put on the backburner when Karen suffered a stroke, but once again she experienced firsthand the healing power of music. After the stroke, Karen couldn’t move any fingers on her left hand, but now, by playing the piano to regain dexterity, she’s recovering quickly and aims to take to the pool once again for her 78th birthday.
Start Your Own Fundraiser!
Are you as inspired by Karen’s story as we are? Do you have an idea for a personal fundraiser? We’re happy to get you started on the right track! Personal fundraising pages are an easy way to invite your friends, family, and colleagues to join you in supporting the Children’s Cancer Association.