NEWTOWN >> The Little Hero Foundation, which decorated State Street in Newtown with gold pumpkins this past fall to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research, is now casting the spotlight on Gold Ribbon Moms just in time for Mothers Day.
The Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, founded by Council Rock High School graduate Maxime “Maxx” (Donahue) Barry, is inviting nominations of mothers who have children or adolescents currently in treatment or have completed treatment for pediatric cancer (living or deceased).
“Moms are incredible people for all that they do for their families — but have you ever met a Gold Ribbon Mom?” asks Barry. “A Gold Ribbon Mom is a mom who began her role with the words, ‘Your child has cancer.’ Despite the crushing cascade of raw emotion, the Gold Ribbon Mom triumphantly soldiers on — picking herself up day in and day out to protect, support, and advocate for her diagnosed child,” she said.
“The goal is to recognize all of these moms who have children affected by cancer. I wanted them to know that they are not alone,” said Barry.
Every nominee will receive via email a Gold Ribbon Mom Award Certificate of Recognition and will be entered into a random drawing for the chance to win one of five $500 cash gift cards.
“Gold Ribbon Moms deserve to know how they are held in the highest esteem. This Mother’s Day, nominate a Gold Ribbon Mom for her bravery, advocacy and support in behalf of her cancer warrior and family,” said Barry.
The international awareness symbol for Childhood Cancer is the gold ribbon. Unlike other cancer awareness ribbons, which focus on a singular type of cancer, the gold ribbon is a symbol for all forms of cancer affecting children and adolescents.
Gold Ribbon Moms may be nominated by visiting LittleHeroFoundation.org between now and Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 9. Nominators will be asked to answer the question, “Tell us about this Gold Ribbon Mom! How does her bravery, advocacy and support benefit her family? What qualities do you admire?”
The five random winners will be announced the week after Mother’s Day.
Barry said she has already received more than 100 nominees. “I wasn’t sure what I’d get back, but some of them are pages long and some of them are a paragraph, but they are all super heartfelt. It’s been a very positive response. I’ve really been blown away.”
Barry, who grew up in Washington Crossing, graduated from Council Rock and whose parents, Shari and Tom Donahue own the Zebra-Striped Whale in Newtown, founded the Little Hero Foundation after her own experience as a Gold Ribbon Mom.
When he was five and a half months old, her own son, Ben, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer.
“I was tickling my son and I felt a bump on his belly,” said Barry. She and her husband decided to take their son to the hospital to get it checked out. Within two hours, she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear. “We suspect cancer and we are going to admit him.”
During treatment, Ben’s cancer tumor responded to the intense chemotherapy given, and he was able to have lifesaving liver resection surgery.
Nonetheless, Barry said chemotherapy was tough on Ben, and he spent nearly 100 nights in the hospital primarily due to the effects of the harsh chemotherapy drugs. He needed many blood and platelet transfusions to keep him alive, and he dealt with a lot of pain necessitating strong pain medications and nutrition by IV.
“We have been incredibly lucky despite the frightening diagnosis, and Ben is doing great now that he is finished treatment,” said Barry. “Ben is an active and daring toddler, and is truly the sweetest and most social little boy.”
Ben will continue to be monitored for his cancer marker levels. “We hope and pray more than anything that the cancer never comes back,” said Barry. “He will also have to be monitored for other significant potential long-term side effects from the chemo including: heart function issues, kidney function issues, infertility and leukemia.”
At the age of three, Ben now has a full head of blonde hair, he’s daring and is super active. “He’s a healthy toddler and we are so incredibly grateful after all he’s been through.”
Following her experience with Ben, Barry founded the Little Hero Foundation to further the goals of a better tomorrow by funding research for more direct and less harmful cancer treatments, and a brighter today for families in the trenches, fighting for their child’s life.
“I felt such a sense of gratitude that I needed to give back as much as I possibly could to make things better for kids in the future,” said Barry, of her decision to found Little Hero.
“And even though Ben is a survivor, there are a lot of side affects we’ll have to monitor him for the rest of his life. Hopefully it won’t happen, but it’s something we have to watch.”
Barry said the whole idea behind Little Hero is to find less invasive treatments and cures for certain cancers that aren’t treatable right now.
“Cancer treatments have come along way. And I think in the next 10 years they are going to be completely revolutionized,” she predicted. “If I had what Ben had when I was his age there’s no way I would have survived. It’s just incredible that he has a future. And I feel like in the next 10 years it’s going to be so much better.
“I feel like we can do better,” adds Barry. “And if I can move the needle forward just a little bit, to give more money to the right doctor who has an idea and solution with the course of drugs, then it’s all been worth it,” she said.