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7-Year-Old Uses Illness to Promote Cancer Awareness

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It happens quite often that children end up on the business side of the media in order to promote a cause whether it’s political or otherwise, and whether or not the child actually wants the attention. But this is not the case with Emerson Hoogendoorn who has chosen to use her story as a child diagnosed with a normally deadly form of cancer to promote the cause of finding a cure.

One would expect that just about anyone diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor would resign his or her self to living out their remaining days in the comfort of entertainment, family, friends, and massive doses of painkillers. But Emerson has decided that she wants to raise awareness and more. She has also begun raising money entirely on her own by becoming a small business owner, working tirelessly to make her business a success, and using the money she earns to promote cancer research as well as to donate to the cause.

She sells bracelets, cookies, lemonade, wind chimes, and just about anything else she can market online. She makes most of what she sells herself, adding to the appeal of her online shop. She was first taken to see her family doctor when she started experiencing double vision, severe headaches, and nausea. Soon, she was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer that was eating away at her young brain.

However, she has since been taking an experimental medication, and since that treatment began, when Emerson was first given her deadly diagnosis- her tumor has shrunk to an amazing 12% of the size it was originally at when it was first discovered in an x-ray. That is an unprecedented result. Not only is Emerson giving hope to other children with similar cancer conditions with her generous endeavors, but she is also giving them hope with her continually improving prognosis!

In addition to this, her case is giving invaluable data to researchers who will be looking for ways to use the treatments which seem to be working for Emerson on other children.

According to Cancer.org, as many as 11,000 children in the United States are anticipated to have been diagnosed with cancer before the end of this year. These are children under the age of 15, who have barely had a chance to experience life and the fullness of their own potential.

Due to major advances in cancer treatment, as many as 80% of these children will survive their fight with the dreaded disease. In the 1970s, the survival rate for children with cancer was roughly 58%. The progress has been substantial, and researchers are always doing their best to push those numbers forward another fraction of a percent. It is due to thousands of professionals working diligently largely on donated funds that the science and practice of cancer treatment become gradually more effective over long periods of time.

With the help, the critical data, and the inspiration provided by brave and wonderful young people like Emerson Hoogendoorn, it is possible that even those numbers can be further improved.

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Life

Batman’s Newest Battle: Cheering Up Refugee Children

Sherry Rucherman

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Life in refugee camps can be terribly boring. For many refugees coming from war-torn and disaster-stricken areas, boredom can actually be a relief. Still, boredom is boredom and the days can drag by even if basic security and shelter are secured in the camp. Fortunately for refugees in one Lebanese camp, a new hero is on the job, cheering people up: Batman!

The Caped Crusader recently went viral on Reddit and other social media platforms after photos and videos emerged of his efforts inside a refugee camp. The legendary superhero was spotted playing with children and otherwise cheering the camp residents up. Batman’s best friend at the camp was a young boy by the name of Kadar.

The Caped Crusader has earned a reputation for being a tough-as-nails superhero who always gives his all. That’s true both in Gotham and refugee camps. Batman put in a lot more effort than smiles and handshakes. Clips of Batman giving Kadar a ride on his shoulders and playing soccer with children have emerged. And no offense to the man in black, while he might be good at fighting crime, he needs to brush up on his soccer skills.

Another clip emerged of Batman losing an arm-wrestling match to Kadar. Let’s assume he tossed the match or Gotham might be in trouble the next time the Joker makes an appearance. If Batman’s so out of shape that a child can overpower him, that bodes ill for future battles between good and evil. Still, no one will doubt that Batman brought a lot of joy to the kids in the camp.

Batman also showed off some surprising skills. Did you know he’s one heck of a guitar player and a good singer to boot? Campfire clips of the Caped Crusader strumming away made their rounds. As for taking to the skies, Batman left the Batcopter home but he did manage to fly some kites.

Of course, Batman is a character of fiction, but real-world heroes will rise up none-the-less. In this case, the Caped Crusader was actually Kadar’s dad. The family has been struggling with conditions in the refugee camp and upheaval in their lives, so dad decided to cheer his son up. And at the end of the day, a real-world hero is worth far more than a fictional one.

The story also highlights the struggle that refugees go through. It is estimated that some 250 million children will grow up in conflict-torn areas. Many of them will struggle to secure an education or otherwise live a normal life. All of these children need heroes, both real and fictional.

Every day, families are being torn apart and forced to flee their homes. The United Nations estimates that in Syria alone that some 6.5 million people have been displaced. Over a million refugees from Syria have fled to Lebanon, itself a war-stricken country where millions struggle just to get buy. With an on-going civil war in Yemen, instability in Iraq, and countless other geopolitical issues, the Middle East and North Africa have seen millions of people displaced.

While a lucky few refugees will be resettled in the United States, Europe, and other highly developed areas, many will be trapped in refugee camps. Their only hope of returning home is often the end of the war. Yet modern wars can drag on for decades, seeming to never end. For Kadar and his dad, the years ahead might be tough. Hopefully, however, they can create some good memories along the way.

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Life

When the Lesson Is Kindness

Leslie Tander

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As parents, we always worry about how well we are preparing our children for the world. Sometimes we are overly strict because we worry that if we’re not, our children won’t be able to deal with disappointment and responsibility as adults. As parents, we worry a lot about whether we are doing the right thing and making the right decisions for our children.

Hard Lessons

Brea Schmidt was at the carnival with her children one night. She already had her hands full, with her children being aged 5, 3 and 1, and she also works as a writer and photographer. 

That night her daughter was trying desperately to win a doll. She tried and tried, asking sweetly and politely for another dollar every time she lost. Finally, Brea said that they had to stop. She wasn’t trying to hurt her daughter’s feelings, but it was an exercise in frustration. She knew that you don’t always get what you want, and she was planning on discussing that with her poor child.

The Kindness of a Stranger

The 5-year-old girl was not being a gracious loser. Instead, she was sobbing, Probably already tired from her day having fun at the carnival, she couldn’t hide how sad she was that she hadn’t been able to win the cute little pink Princess Poppy doll. 

A stranger intervened at that point, wanting to help. Even though she couldn’t control the game of chance, she offered to make one more try to help the little girl win her prize. The lady told the little girl that she had a dollar and she was going to try to win for her.

She paid her dollar for the three tickets and sure enough opened a winning ticket. Immediately, she gave the child the prize. Even though she was exhausted, the child was elated from being able to have the doll she so treasured.

We Are A Community

Many people would object to having someone come up and interfere with a private moment, especially one so fraught with emotion. Brea Schmidt knew that some people might feel that way, but she looked at the lady’s gesture as an even better kind of lesson.

The lesson was simple kindness, and Brea’s daughter learned that night that she and her family weren’t alone in the world. When she was having a bad time, a total stranger came up and tried to make things better for her. She gave her own money just to make a stranger happy. And she was obviously glad to do it.

Open Hearts

When children are very young, they have trouble learning to share. Even those with brothers and sisters often feel threatened by the others, wanting their parents and playthings to themselves. Babies try to get all the attention and become more able to be generous as they get older.

Teaching our children to be so open and generous with their hearts is one of the hardest lessons. Brea’s little girl will never forget the kind stranger who gave her a lesson in kindness that night.

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Life

Turkey & Dressing With A Side of Hope and Happiness

Sherry Rucherman

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Do You Smell Pumpkin Pie?

If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island and happen to catch a whiff of holiday cheer while passing a slightly weathered station wagon, you’ve just encountered Ty and Vicky Shen.

This father and daughter team have become local heroes, especially around the holidays, since they began delivering hot, healthy meals across the state in 2001. They love the open road, but the real joy is in the reaction they receive from those they serve.

They’re not in this alone. The Shens are only one of the teams regularly volunteering with Community Servings, a Massachusetts non-profit food program which specializes in modified meals for families and individuals with specific medical restrictions or other needs, often due to severe or chronic illnesses. That means the Shens and other volunteers reach households often unserved by similar programs because their needs are so specific.

Of course, neither the Shens nor Community Services forget about the families and caregivers involved. Every spouse, in-law, nurse, and child receives their own hot holiday meal.

The extra time and effort is more than worth it, they assure us.

“Those who can help, should,” says Ty. “Regardless if it’s time or other resources, helping our fellow man is our responsibility.” Vicky seems to agree.

“Volunteering with my dad is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I get to spend time with him, and the people at Community Servings are so wonderful. Most importantly, it feels great to do something on a daily basis helps people’s lives be a little bit better.”

Bringing It Together

Food is more than an essential requirement for life. It often means security, and comfort. Sometimes it represents plenty, but even in humble circumstances it can facilitate a sense unity and thanks.

“One of the most important elements of the holidays this time of year is togetherness,” says a representative from Community Services. “Sharing a meal has been a demonstration of trust, intimacy, and togetherness over the centuries and across cultures.”

That togetherness doesn’t just start when meals are delivered; it’s part of the process from the very beginning. Community Services volunteers prepare each dish on site, paying careful attention to the different restrictions and dietary needs they’ll be serving that day. Teams like the Shens spend most of their time delivering, but they’re no strangers to peeling potatoes or chopping cabbage or even – in a pinch – stuffing a bird or two.

It’s an enormous undertaking each and every time, but what determines whether or not it’s enjoyable work is the people involved, and the mindset they bring to the task. And most of the time, that makes Community Services as much of a family as those they serve during the holidays and throughout the year.

“Each year, our volunteers give more than 55,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent to almost 30 full time employees,” says David Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “There’s no way we could do any of this without their passion and their commitment.”

That passion and commitment are quickly driving Community Services towards their eight millionth meal. That’s right – eight with six zeroes after it! But the Shens, like most of those involved, don’t think of it in terms of the millions, or even the thousands of meals prepared and delivered each day.

To them, it’s always about the next door opened. The next family served. The next face smiling in recognition and appreciation. It’s always about the one at a time.

And as long as it’s up to the Shens, it always will be.

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