by Doug Ulman
In February of this year, Mackenzie Marx heard the three most feared words in the English language: you have cancer. Those three little words have impacted millions of Americans, and each of us has a personal story of a friend, parent, colleague or loved one who has been affected by the disease. For years, cancer was recognized as the leading cause of death for people over 85.
But Mackenzie is just eight years old. She has her whole life ahead of her.
Since February she has received three rounds of chemotherapy and is now waiting for a bone marrow transplant. With each round of chemo, Mackenzie checks in to the Children?s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where she is admitted for the duration of her treatment. While there, Mackenzie participates in an innovative program that incorporates art into her healing process. CHOP?s ?Artists-in-Residence? program uses creativity to help patients meet the challenges of diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
So in addition to the nurses, doctors and technicians that work with Mackenzie, she also spends time with Jessie Boyko, CHOP?s resident artist, who helps Mackenzie craft abstract and hand drawn art. According to her mom, the art projects have ?sparked an interest in her,? encouraging her to think about pursuing arts education once she is out of the hospital. Art has helped inspire her to survive.
The Artists-in-Residence program at CHOP is funded in part by a Community Impact Project award from LIVESTRONG. To us at LIVESTRONG, someone becomes a survivor the moment they hear those words ?you have cancer.? I know, because I?m one of them. I?ve beaten cancer three times and I?m the CEO of LIVESTRONG, working every day to make sure that people like me and Mackenzie have the tools, resources, information and support needed to fight back, beat cancer and survive.
Some of the most critical support a survivor will receive comes from local, community organizations like CHOP. That?s why since 1997, LIVESTRONG has invested more than $70 million in community-centered organizations in their efforts to help survivors face the realities that come with a cancer diagnosis.
The Community Impact program is just one of the many ways we fulfill our mission to serve people affected by cancer and empower them to take action. Another way we do so is through large-scale events like the Team LIVESTRONG Challenge Series, which raises funds to support survivorship programs and raises awareness of cancer, which is now the world?s number one killer.
This weekend, for the sixth time, we are hosting the LIVESTRONG Challenge right here in Philadelphia. On Saturday and Sunday thousands of cyclists, runners and walkers will hit the streets in support of our mission for cancer survivors. We are grateful for the supportive community that welcomes us back each year, and are honored to partner with terrific organizations like CHOP, which share our commitment and passion for survivors.
In 2010, the Philly Challenge included more than 5,700 participants, collectively raising more than $3.4 million for the fight against cancer. So far this year, we have raised $2.4 million, and expect to see more than 5,000 people participate in this weekend?s activities.
This weekend, when you see thousands of people in Philadelphia wearing that iconic yellow LIVESTRONG wristband, don?t just think of athletes, cyclists or the Tour de France. Think of eight-year-old Mackenzie, and how Philly?s support of LIVESTRONG is helping her on her journey of survivorship, one brush stroke at a time.
The Team LIVESTRONG Challenge Series heads to Philadelphia this Saturday and Sunday, August 20-21, kicking off at Montgomery County Community College.