My “Year of Wellness” officially begins in September but, compared to six-year-old Liam Witt, I’ve already had a lifetime of wellness. So have my kids.
Liam is the son of Gretchen Holt Witt, a former Richmond co-worker and the founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (CKC). When Liam was two and a half, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system. That was three and a half years ago, and since then cancer has given him very little peace.
Lion-hearted Gretchen Holt Witt
What would you do if you were in Gretchen’s shoes? The answer is different for all of us. Like her, I’d seek out the best doctors in the world. I’d immerse myself in information. But here’s one thing I can’t conceive of doing simultaneously: founding a nonprofit that has enabled thousands of everyday folks to raise more than one million dollars for pediatric cancer research, one bake sale at a time.
Gretchen is hunting down a cowardly disease that preys on children. A former athlete, she’s been a warrior for more than three years now. That’s why her Facebook post last week stopped me in my tracks.
It said, “…It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us.” It concluded: “Pray for him and hold a bake sale.”
I remain haunted by an interview that Gretchen gave more than a year ago to CBS National News. In it, she declares, “I have to know that I did everything that I possibly could…” to save her son’s life. You don’t have to know her to see that she means that.
Having created an idiot-proof way to for anyone to help, she gave me no choice but to act when I read her post.
Why Richmond, Virginia, is “Easy to Love”
Here’s the timeline of what happened over the next 96 hours:
Sunday, August 22 – I send a late-night, bake sale proposal via e-mail to three good friends – Jennifer Pounders, Michele Rhudy and Marcy Walsh, all former co-workers of Gretchen’s – saying, “I think we need to do this, guys.”
Monday, August 23 – All three women jump on board immediately. A phone call decides the bake sale date and time (September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the tentative location (Carytown, Richmond’s answer to Georgetown). By the close of day, we have two Girl Scout troops and a professional baker. Best of all, the staff of my old public relations agency, CRT/tanaka (where Gretchen formerly worked), agrees to handle bake sale media relations and to close their office on September 10 in order to bake thousands of cookies. Their regional offices in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles quickly agree to bake as well.
Wednesday, August 25 – the Carytown Merchants Association agrees to host our “mile-long bake sale,” and the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shop donates its industrial kitchen for a 12-hour baking blitz.
Thursday, August 26 – Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies in Massachusetts donates 6,000 frozen gourmet cookie “pucks.” CRT/tanaka steps up to cover the shipping, secures the Short Pump Wal-Mart as a bake sale location, and scores the event’s first television interview. WINN Transportation offers up its trolley for CKC’s first-ever Mobile Bake Sale.
Small contributions make a big difference
Since then, there have been too many acts of kindness and goodwill – large and small – to enumerate. My e-mail Inbox is a popcorn kettle, and I can only imagine what the next 12 days will bring.
More than anything, I hope it brings piles of money – healing, curing, life-saving dollars.
Gretchen recently e-mailed to say how small contributions make a tremendous difference. “We could be so much further ahead on this bloody disease if we just focused attention on it,” she wrote. “The first [modest] trial we helped fund had been waiting for funding for years. Years, Wendy! Why don’t people understand that what’s happening to my precious child could be happening to their child just as easily? We should all care and get involved and demand more for our children and be outraged that we’ve accepted this as a nation.”
Be a good cookie
Liam currently is fighting for his life. And if his story rips your heart out, here are three easy things to do:
1. Come buy cookies! Honor Liam’s family, all the courageous parents and children battling this disease, and this tremendous volunteer effort by supporting this cause and buying some cookies (or anything from a wide variety of baked goods) from our Cookies for Kids Cancer Bake Sale on Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be tables up and down Carytown (many merchants are donating a percentage of that day’s sales; Ellwood Thompson’s is stocking its booth with vegan treats!) and we’re even offering a “Cookies Carry Out & Drive Thru” at 2901 West Cary (across the street from the Byrd Theatre). Other locations include the Barnes & Noble at Libbie Place (in the near West End , look for the trolley from 10-2), the Short Pump Wal-Mart, the Sam’s Club on Midlothian and the Midlothian Kroger. (Checks payable to “Cookies for Kids Cancer.” Please check back for additional locations).
2. Have cookies delivered! Invite the CKC Mobile Bake Sale Trolley to your Richmond office location on Friday, September 10. Help secure internal approval, communicate to your co-workers through whatever channels are required and get people up out of their seats to come buy some life-changing treats. (Contact Jennifer Pounders at 338-4514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
3. Make a secure, online donation to our Cookies for Kids Cancer Richmond Bake Sale. (…by clicking on the preceding sentence; it’s a hyperlink if you are new to those!).
One hundred percent of your donation will go directly to pediatric cancer research and your donation will be matched by Glad Products (maker of Gladware). Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501(c)3 public charity. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.
Thank you for being a good cookie.
- Our post-event wrap-up and “Secrets from the Highest-Grossing Cookies for Kids’ Bake Sale”
- YouTube video of team members painting banners for all our bake sale tables!
- Radio interview about the Richmond event on Lite 98!
- Watch the Cookies for Kids Cancer interview on WTVR-6′s “Virginia Today”
- Watch the Cookies Richmond interview on WRIC-8.
- Watch the Cookies Richmond interview on WWBT-12.
- Our secure First Giving site to make an online donation
- Cookies for Kids’ Cancer
- Blog about Prince Liam the Brave (son of former Richmonder and Cookies for Kids Cancer Founder Gretchen Holt Witt)
- Glad to Give (Glad Products)
DAYS KAYAKED: 12 (including some lovely mother-daughter outings)
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4