MardiPaws Parade

The blog has been quiet lately – mostly because we have been too busy to write! It’s nice to say we have been too busy doing fun things and enjoying life to keep it updated! Emily’s Facebook page is more active since it’s easier to post quick updates there – we’ve been up to quite a lot.

First, an update on Emily’s health. She has been doing great and her blood work has looked perfect! She’s been dealing with a chronic cough and sinus issues though for several months. We aren’t sure if it’s just due to the cold/flu season, allergies, or something else. She seems to feels fine though – maybe it’s just all this cold, snowy weather we’ve had here all winter!

We’ve been on a few trips the last few months. In December we were invited to Los Angeles to appear on The Doctors show and tell Emily’s story. Then in January, Emily was invited to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Disney World Marathon where we also spoke and told Emily’s story at the inspirational dinner. We watched the half marathon and marathon runners cross the finish line, and visited some of the Disney parks. Then, of course in February there was the Penn State Dance MaraTHON – it was amazing. We will try to update the blog with more posts/photos about them when we can.

Last weekend we traveled to Louisiana where Emily was invited to be the Grand Marshal at the post-MardiGras parade called the MardiPaws Parade. She had a blast (and we all enjoyed the warm weather!). It’s a parade of dogs in costume and benefits both “kids and canines”. The parade is a major fundraiser for three non-profits in that area: one benefits leukemia patients, one benefits an animal shelter and one benefits an arts program for children. When she was invited we thought it sounded perfect because Emily loves animals – especially dogs!

The parade has a Queen and King (dogs of course!) and we stayed with the family of Coco Carey who was Queen of the parade. We had a great time with the Carey family – they invited us to stay in their beautiful home and kept us entertained all weekend! Their youngest daughter Mollie is 10 years old and she and Emily became great friends right away.


Saturday, we had a tour of Global Wildlife Center and rode around feeding the animals. Emily was excited because she got to kiss a giraffe! She exclaimed: “I’ve always wanted to kiss a giraffe!”. I guess she can cross that off of her bucket list 🙂 It was so much fun and we loved hearing Emily giggle at the animals.


Later, we went to McClain’s Pizzeria – the pizza is amazing and Emily and Mollie, along with McClain’s daughter Ruby, got to make their own pizzas. Emily was so excited to make her own pizza and learn how to twirl the dough.


Sunday was the MardiPaws parade! Emily just hugged all the cute little dogs and giggled at their costumes. Celebrity monarch in the parade was Ian Somerhalder (he played Boone on LOST and is now on Vampire Diaries) who is originally from that area of Louisiana. Emily is too young to watch Vampire Diaries and wasn’t sure who Ian was and said she was more interested in the cute dogs than the cute guy 🙂 If she was only a few years older she would have been MUCH more excited to meet Ian (I was very excited and so were the thousands of other girls who came to see him!).

Emily rode in the parade with a cute little dog named Chloe and threw beads to the crowd. The parade was only 1-mile long but they estimate about 35,000 people came out to see it. It was a beautiful route along the lake in Mandeville, Louisiana.


It was a wonderful, fun weekend – one we will treasure because we saw Emily laugh, giggle, and have fun all weekend. THANK YOU so much to Denise Gutnisky for inviting us to the parade and to The Carey Family for inviting us to stay at their home and entertaining us! We had an amazing time!

Merry Christmas 2013

Our only Christmas wish is for Emily to stay cancer free and healthy. She is our Christmas miracle and we can’t imagine life without her. We are very grateful to be spending this time together. Thank you for being part of her journey and continuing to give our family love and hope, especially when we needed it most. Thank you for keeping Emily in your prayers. Hold your family tight and enjoy every moment this holiday season.

Merry Christmas,
The Whiteheads – Tom, Kari, Emily & Lucy


Photo credits: Family photo – Kari Whitehead Photography; Individual photo of Emily – Christine Chardo Photography

WebMD Health Heroes

Emily and Dr. Grupp are WebMD Health Heroes for 2013. Each year, the WebMD Health Heroes awards celebrate those who have met a health challenge and are giving back to others in an inspiring way.

“WebMD Health Heroes represent individuals who are dedicated to encouraging health and wellness throughout their communities, and this year’s winners are achieving remarkable success in their goals of inspiring others,” said Kristy Hammam, editor in chief, WebMD Magazine. “The 2013 WebMD Health Heroes are making a positive impact in the lives of those facing their own health challenges by extending their support to others.”

The Health Heroes are featured in the November/December issues of WebMD Magazine. To learn more about the 2013 WebMD Health Heroes, please visit You can view and download a copy of the magazine here.