Local non-profit continuing to help families facing childhood cancer
(ABC 6 NEWS) – September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and Brighter Tomorrows is hosting its 30th Go for the Gold race to raise funds to continue helping families facing childhood cancer.
Due to the pandemic, the race is virtual for the second year in a row.
On Tuesday night, racers picked up their race bags and t-shirts to get ready for the race.
This is the biggest fundraiser for Brighter Tomorrows. It helps fund activities for the families as well as things like meals and financial support.
COVID has made fundraising more challenging for the non-profit.
"We still had like 325 people that joined us virtually last year and signed up for the race that was down from about 410 the year before so it was a slight dip last year a little bit more of a dip this year. But I think that is what everyone is finding is covid is stretches on there is a weariness it is just more difficult to get people engaged," said Brighter Tomorrows Board Member and Race Chair, Mary Hansen.
They have raised nearly $20,000 this year, but the goal is $30,000.
"Cancer takes away all of your control and your abilities to make decisions almost and do things, but no one can take away the hope that you have for your child that is a part of this journey. You know I hope that we can provide that," said Brighter Tomorrows President and Co-Founder Liz Canan.
The non-profit gives families a chance to connect with people who know exactly how they are feeling when going through childhood cancer.
The honorary family for this year’s Go for the Gold race is the Kiefer family from Stewartville.
"He started out with a fever, back pain, and started limping," said Stephanie Kiefer.
Kiefer’s son Liam was admitted to the hospital in the fall of 2020.
Doctors performed a bone marrow biopsy and found that Liam had B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"It’s very isolating you kind of feel alone especially with the pandemic on top of finding out your child has cancer," said Kiefer.
After the diagnosis, Liam started treatment.
"A lot of hard-hitting chemo, a lot of hospitalizations, a lot of appointments," said Kiefer.
And with treatment came Brighter Tomorrows, not only there to help Liam, but support his parents Stephanie and Jake.
"It brings people together that have a lot of commonalities in this unimaginable journey and it connects them," said Canan.
"I can ask these people questions like what did you feel was the hardest phase, or when did you guys feel comfortable when starting to travel, do you guys let your kids swim in a pool," said Kiefer.
It also helps siblings, like Liam’s sister Claire and Mallory get through this tough time.
"For Claire, it was very hard because at that time we weren’t allowed to even bring her to the hospital and I think Brighter Tomorrows they are so supportive and I know she gets involved in some of the activities," said Kiefer.
"We have virtual bingo night which is one of their favorites we had taken a group of siblings to an adventure spot in the Twin Cities where they did ropes," said Hansen.
While this non-profit supports these families, it would not be possible without donations and fundraisers like Go for the Gold.
"It’s local we are your neighbors this really happens, and it affects you know obviously Liam but the entire family just rallying around local people and feeling that support is amazing," said Kiefer.
Liam is now in the maintenance phase of his treatment which lasts about two and half years.
Once a month now, he gets chemo and sees his doctor.
Thursday night Rochester will be lit up in gold.
The Plummer Building will be lit for Childhood Cancer Awareness and you at home can join in.
Brighter Tomorrows is asking everyone to leave their porch light on to let the children and families know you support them in the fight against pediatric cancer.
You can register for the 30th annual Go for the Gold race here.
Find out more about Brighter Tomorrows here.