Emily’s Year – Best of 2014

As I was going through our photos from 2014 trying to pick a few of my favorites I realized how many fun and amazing things we were able to do with Emily this year! It was definitely our busiest year! Here are some highlights:

Below Left: In January we had a chance to speak at the inspirational dinner for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Team in Training at the Disney World Marathon. We had a fantastic time and it was wonderful to meet so many people involved with LLS. We support LLS whenever we can because they helped fund the T-cell therapy research. We always enjoy speaking at their events and meeting so many inspiring people! Below Right: The 3rd weekend in February is our FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year! The Penn State Dance MaraTHON. It’s always amazing and Emily says it’s better than Christmas.


Below: In March Emily was asked to attend the MardiPaws Parade in Louisiana. We were hosted by two wonderful families – The Carey’s and the Gutnisky’s – who went out of their way to make sure our time there was special and fun! We still talk about how much fun we had. Emily and new friend Mollie still keep in touch. Emily’s highlights of the trip were snuggling dogs in the parade, kissing a giraffe, and making pizzas. Kari’s highlight was meeting Ian Somerhalder 🙂


In April, we made a trip to Philadelphia for Emily’s 2-year follow-up appointment along with a camera crew that followed us during Emily’s visit. The filming is part of a documentary coming out in March/April 2015 on PBS called The Story of Cancer. We will post more about this as it gets closer.


Also in April, we traveled to Pittsburgh where Emily was a junior bridesmaid in Aunt Brenda’s wedding!


On another trip to Philadelphia we caught up with Austin and his family. Austin is still in remission 1 1/2 years after he had the T-cell therapy. We also had chance to attend an event to honor Dr. Bruce Levine who engineers the T-cells in his lab.


In May, Emily celebrated her 9th birthday!


As part of her birthday week, she got to visit the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and feed hippos at the Philadelphia Zoo.


Also in May, we celebrated that Emily was 2-years cancer free!


We also found out that Emily and Lucy’s photo is in a microbiology book 🙂


Below Left: Also in May, we attended a fundraising event for Solving Kids Cancer – a non-profit organization that raises funds for pediatric cancer research. Some well known designers from the fashion industry attended the event including Donna Karan and Bonnie Young (shown below with Emily). We went to Bonnie Young’s studio so Emily could try on dresses for the event and she wore one of Bonnie’s dresses that evening! Below Right: We met up with several friends who now live in NYC who were part of the Dance MaraTHON when they attended Penn State.


At another Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event, we met Jessica Melore and Erin Hammett Ruddy – two women who also have amazing cancer survival stories. Their stories are very, very inspiring.


Early in the summer, Emily was photographed by Brent Stirton – a photographer for National Geographic (although these photos are not for National Geographic). His photography is stunning and it was really fun to watch him work with Emily. She loved this photo shoot because she got to ride a horse – something she has always wanted to do but never had a chance to do until then! Brent also photographed her on her 4-wheeler at our camp.


In June, we attended the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Summer Solstice event in Hershey, PA. Emily auctioned off her artwork for $4,500 as part of the fundraiser!


Another adventure was going to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. We went there as part of the filming for a segment for the Stand Up to Cancer Telethon. Emily went zip lining and talked Tom and I into going too! Emily L-O-V-E-D it and wasn’t scared AT ALL.


The cameraman also had to go zip lining to try to catch it on film.


Nemacolin went out of their way to make the weekend special for Emily and she was able to go behind the scenes and feed lions, tiger, bears, and baby goats. She was in heaven (she loves all animals and plan to be a veterinarian).


While at Nemacolin we ran into Neil Walker who invited her to the Stand-Up-to-Cancer Pirate game.


We did take some time to just relax and went on our yearly beach vacation!


Just some normal everyday photos of Emily with Lucy, dancing in the rain, and getting her immunoglobulin infusion.


End of summer party with Emily’s Aunts and cousins and her first day of 4th grade photo.


Perhaps the most exciting trip was going to Hollywood, CA to attend the Stand-Up-to-Cancer Telethon! Emily walked the Red Carpet.


We had a chance to meet cancer survivor Ethan Zahn.


It was really fun getting attending the telethon. Emily is pictured on the left with cancer survivor Suleika Jaouad and the photo on the right is with Katie Couric!


While we were there we met up with a lot of friends including Nurse Karlie. Karlie was one of the first nurses we met at Hershey Medical Center when Emily was first diagnosed. Karlie has since moved to L.A. and is a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital there.


A few other highlights were getting to see Emily painted in the Penn State Mural in person and we (Tom and Kari) went to Las Vegas to share Emily’s story at a conference.


Our last event for the year was the Ride to Conquer Cancer – Emily raised over $50,000 thanks to some very generous donors!


And finally, our yearly family photo!


We managed to pack a lot of adventures into 2014! We are so very grateful that Emily has remained healthy and that we were able to share these experiences with her. We hope 2015 brings even more fun adventure! In January, we will be announcing a project we’ve been working on and will share more information about The Story of Cancer documentary (we hear there might be a premiere in State College in February – we will keep you posted!).

Have a Happy, Healthy New Year!!

We Believe,
Tom, Kari & Emily

Help Emily Raise $9,000 for Cancer Research!

Emily told us back in May that in honor of her 9th birthday she wanted to raise $9,000 to donate to cancer research. When we asked her why she chose that amount she said “because it’s my 9th birthday!” Then she said “well, let’s just make it $10,000 – an extra $1,000 to grow on!”

In honor of Emily’s 9th birthday – and celebrating two years cancer free – we want to help her meet her goal. The goal is to raise $9,000 – er, $10,000 – by the end of September (Childhood Cancer Awareness Month)!!





Emily’s 9th Birthday Week :: Part 1

Emily’s birthday was in early May and we started off Emily’s birthday weekend with another trip to Philadelphia. First, Emily was invited to visit the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. The center trains dogs beginning when they are just eight weeks old to search for victims buried under rubble after a disaster such as a building collapse. They train dogs for other purposes as well and the center is currently doing research on training dogs to detect ovarian cancer in women – very interesting! Emily had a chance to see how they train the dogs and how the dogs can find someone buried under a pile of rubble. The center has a pile of rubble that they use and one of the trainers or volunteers will hide in the rubble. Then they let one of the dogs try to find the person and see how long it takes. It was a great experience for Emily to see and she loved hanging out with all of the dogs.

That evening we attended a reception at the Penn Abramson Cancer Center to celebrate Dr. Levine’s appointment of the Barbara and Edward Netter Associate Professorship in Gene Therapy. Dr. Levine grows the T-cells in his lab for the T-cell therapy treatment that Emily had. Emily and a few of the adult T-cell patients were there to help celebrate. They knew Emily’s birthday was the next day and surprised her with a birthday cake(s). It was a very special evening to celebrate Emily’s birthday and honor Dr. Levine who is part of the T-cell team that saved her life.
Emily, Dr. Levine, and two adult T-cell patients
Birthday cake!Emily, Tom, Kari and Dr. Levine
The next morning – Emily’s 9th birthday! – we went to the Philadelphia Zoo and Emily got to feed the hippos. That was interesting. Hippos apparently are not very nice so we had to stand above them and feed them. Interesting facts about hippos: 1) Their skin secrets its own sunscreen and 2) Their skin also secrets it’s own antibiotic if they have an injury.
On our way home from Philadelphia we stopped at the Park Forest Middle School for the State College Mini-THON where they raised a total of $57,182.34! The kids raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund which supports pediatric cancer patients at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. It’s similar to the big Penn State Dance MaraTHON and the kids dance from 6:00 PM  – midnight. Emily always has a great time and it’s inspiring to see these kids raising money for pediatric cancer. There are mini-THONs held around the state of Pennsylvania all year and in other states now. If you would like to learn more and/or hold a mini-THON in your school (they are in elementary school, middle school, and high school) send us a message and we will connect you with others who have held mini-THONs. It’s also a great high school senior project 🙂
The McCauley Family sharing their son Lachlan’s cancer story.In the left photo is Isabella (holding Manna) – Isabella is a leukemia survivor after relapsing and having a bone marrow transplant. On the right is Emily (also hold Manna!). Manna is Emily’s BFF and they are in the same class. Manna’s family is also a Four Diamonds Family because her younger brother Corban was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – he has been in remission for several years now!
After the mini-THON we drove home and prepared for Emily’s birthday party the next day. This year she chose the theme to be Penn State colors and of course there was a bouncy house. She wanted a Penn State cake and the Sweet Art Bakery in Clearfield designed the cake for her and incorporated purple and butterflies. It was chilly and rainy for her party but she still had a great time. I found this “great” game idea on Pinterest where you put a shower cap on and spray it with whipped cream. Then a partner stands away from you and throws cheeseballs, trying to get as many to stick in the whipped cream as possible in a certain time limit. Total Pinterest Fail! Within 30 seconds the kids were spraying whipped cream all over each other AND THEMSELVES and then THREW cheeseballs at each other. It was not the calm game that Pinterest implied it would be. There was shrieking and food flying everywhere but the kids thought it was the best game ever and I guess that’s what counts. Some of the girls had to wash their hair and we had to scrub the whipped cream and cheese powder off their jackets. So parents if you are wondering why your child came home with wet hair and their clothes were covered in sticky orange stuff…this would be why.
Our weekend didn’t end there though! We will continue in the next blog post.