The fight against childhood cancers can be lonely and isolating, but there’s a Richmond nonprofit that lets the families know they’re not alone.
For 10 years, the Connor’s Heroes Foundation has been providing support and a helping hand to families of children with cancer who are being treated in Richmond. Their work includes the Helping Heroes program, which provides services ranging from help with yard work and household chores to delivering meals and grocery shopping; providing Heroes bags and backpacks, which are packed with games and toys for the children and gas cards and gift certificates that help the parents; Superheroes and Sidekicks, a program whose volunteers spend quality time with the kids with cancer and their siblings, from the hospital room to excursions to a movie or elsewhere; a bone marrow transplant unit support team that helps personalize and decorate rooms for the children to make it more pleasant and homey during their extended stays; bereavement support; and endowment of a pediatric cancer research chair at VCU.
Connor’s Heroes also offers monthly art sessions at Art 180 and the Visual Arts Center or Richmond and bi-monthly excursions, including a trip to a Flying Squirrels game set for August.
“We are providing support that families desperately need, not just financial support, but emotional and social support as well,’’ says Lisa Goodwin, the foundation co-founder with her then-husband, Steve Goodwin. They’re the parents of the foundation’s namesake, and his sister, Emily.
Connor was a toddler when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003. He underwent treatment for 2 ½ years and is now 14 and cancer free. His family was lucky, and had plenty of support, but many families lack that kind of help. So, they set up the foundation in 2006.
“I think what keeps us going is that we know we are making a difference in the lives of families who are battling childhood cancer,” says Goodwin by email.
About 100 families are in Richmond each year as their children undergo treatment for cancer, and the foundation touches each of them in some way. They work with children in treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, the ASK Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic and the VCU Massey Cancer Center Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
The foundation projects it will raise more than $400,000 for its work this year, with about 80 percent of its proceeds directly benefiting the families. It raised about $200,000 in May at its annual Heroes Art Ball. Artwork created by the patients in collaboration with Richmond artists was auctioned at the event.
One work created by 14-year-old Noelle with input by Richmond magazine’s Steve Hedberg set a record for the event as it sold for $10,000.
Connor's Heroes Connor and Mom
From Left: Connor Goodwin, Lisa Goodwin and Dr. Seth Corey. (Kristin Seward Photography)
There are new programs in the works, but the foundation wants to “enhance and refine” its existing work. It’s also seeking to raise more money for research. Seth Corey began work in October as the endowed chair in pediatric cancer research at the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
“We couldn't be more proud of this accomplishment and we are convinced that Dr. Corey and his staff will make a huge impact on families being treated in Richmond and throughout the U.S,” says Goodwin.”
They’ve helped more than 1,000 families over the years, all through an organization that has ja staff of four and the volunteers. They had no office until 2013.
“What makes us unique is that we spend the time to get to know each family for whom we provide support so that we can help in the most meaningful way possible,” says Goodwin.
The long-term goal is to offer “best-in-class support to children and families in treatment and meaningfully advance pediatric cancer research by raising millions of dollars,” says Goodwin. “We want to be the charitable organization that people in Central Virginia think of when they hear the words “childhood cancer."
They have a fundraiser on July 4, a 7.4-kilometer race through Brandermill that begins at Clover Hill High School, 13301 Kelly Green Drive in Midlothian. Online registration is $30 for adults and $25 for youth through July 2 and on race day is $35 on race day and $30 for youth (ages 12 and younger). Lucky Foot is the event sponsor.
For motorcyclists, there’s a fundraising ride on Sept. 11, the Third Annual Heroes Run. There will be an after-ride party at Hardywood. The event last year raised more than $10,000.
“We are building a community of heroes who provide hope, guidance, and support to children with cancer and their families,” says Goodwin. “We are so grateful to our community who share their time, talents, and treasure with us so that we can help make life a little easier for families battling childhood cancer.”
UP ON THE ROOF
Enjoy some drinks and the view at a fundraiser for the Massey Cancer Center to be held Saturday at Kabana Rooftop, atop the Hampton Inns and Suites and Homewood Suites Tower, 700 E. Main St. The event is sponsored by Yelp and will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s by invitation only, and there’s a suggested donation of $10. It’s for ages 21 and older with I.D., and cruise casual attire is acceptable. Create or sign into a Yelp account and email Richmond@yelp.com for more.
KEEP THEM SAFE
They’re giving away bicycle helmets to children on Wednesday at the 17th annual Sumer Safety Fair at Chimborazo Park. There’s also a moon bounce, healthy snacks and interactive safety booths at the event, presented by the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. It’s free, but registration in advance required for groups of 10 or more. Call 628-1603.
Are you up for a red, white and blue biking excursion on Thursday? If so, our friends at Breakaway RVA have planned out your patriotic itinerary.
Deck out your bike and yourself in all-American regalia and head off on a mystery tour on two wheels. with this group, which had 100 riders participate in its inaugural event last month. Half the fun is that your ultimate destination is a secret. You start off at one of six areas around the city that's most convenient to you and fits your biking comfort level. Route leader guides will be there to take you on your way. There's a stop midway, then the groups converge on a single point for an undisclosed, but fun, activity. In May, the ride ended at Jefferson Park. Click here for an interview with Breakaway's founders.
BreakawayRVA Jefferson Park
CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL RANKINGS
The annual rankings of children's hospitals by U.S. News & World Report are in, and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is not on its lists for this year. The facility ranked 48 nationally last year in nephrology.
In a statement, the Richmond facility noted that rankings change as survey questions and criteria is adjusted each year. “While we are disappointed to not rank this year, our outcomes continue to be strong and our commitment to advancing pediatric clinical care, research and education continues."
Two Virginia facilities were listed in the rankings by states: The University of Virginia Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, and Inova Children’s Hospital in Falls Church.
Strangulation is common in domestic violence, and accounts for up to 20 percent of domestic violence deaths, but there’s little guidance in current medical literature available otolaryngologists, the doctors who treat and should be most familiar with this type of violence.
Mike Armstrong of Richmond ENT has updated the literature with an article, “Recognition and Documentation of Strangulation Crimes” in the online edition of JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. The last article dealing with the subject in the specialty literature was in 1989.
It’s all-too-often under-diagnosed, and that can lead to an escalation of violence by the abuser. If the assaulter is not arrested immediately, they’re still in danger. Armstrong said it’s an incredibly common type of assault. “Somewhere in Richmond, it’s happening every day,” he says.
WEED AND TEENS
Does legalization of marijuana lead to increased use of weed by teens? Apparently not, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado survey. Usage was at 38 percent in the state, and was basically unchanged since 2013. The national average of marijuana use by teens is 38.6 percent. Marijuana usage by adults was legalized in Colorado in 2012.
Summer is here, and so are the mosquitoes, but so far, there have been no local-transmission cases of Zika virus in the United States. There have been 26 cases in Virginia, all acquired elsewhere.
VCU Health has opened its Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness Center in short Pump.
The outpatient care facility provides services including sports medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain management, neurology and orthopedics. The facility is at 11958 W. Broad St., near Short Pump Town Center.
IN THE KNOW
VCU Health’s free seminars at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens continues with a session on the latest treatments of varicose veins at 5:30 p.m. on June 30. It will be presented by Shep Morano of the VCU Health Baird Vascular Institute. You can enjoy the gardens at no additional charge beginning at 4 p.m. You have to be registered to participate in the seminar for the free garden admission, though. Call 828-2357.