Meet ASK Kid Meya
Last year, Meya noticed a lump in her collar bone. Initially, she was given an antibiotic for a suspected infection, and sent for a CT scan. Within two hours, Meya’s mom, Juliet, was told her daughter had either lymphoma or leukemia. A lymph node biopsy and a bone marrow test confirmed Stage 3 Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin Lymphoma, a rare form of lymphoma.
Thankfully, four treatments later, Meya has been declared cancer-free with clear scans and she is not looking back! As a student in the musical theater program at Henrico High School, Meya was anxious to get back on the stage and to the business of being a normal teenager.
“Don’t be scared of childhood cancer,” seventeen-year-old cancer survivor Meya courageously declares. “People are uncomfortable to talk about it because most associate cancer with loss. But it doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to be afraid to talk about it.”
Meet ASK Kid Levi
“Levi started complaining that dinosaurs were stomping in his head because his headaches were so severe,” recalls ASK mom Jessica Webb. “Then we noticed that he was losing his appetite, his vision was blurred and his balance was off, and in my heart I knew something was very wrong.” After several pediatrician visits and eventually a CT scan, Jessica’s four year old son, Levi, was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma – a brain tumor – in February 2022.
““No matter what the end of this journey looks like, I know that God is always with us and He has a plan, but those first few weeks of diagnosis and surgery were a whirlwind,” continues Jessica. “ASK was the biggest emotional support for our family from the very beginning."
How to Lend a Hand This Holiday Season
The holiday season is around the corner, and we want to fill it with as much joy and hope as we can for our childhood cancer families. It's going to take a community of big hearts to stock Santa's sleigh – but with your helping hands, we know we can do it. Will you lend a hand to make this holiday season a joyous one for our ASK kids and siblings?
We plan on hosting our annual holiday party as a Winter Wonderland Walk-Through experience at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on December 3rd. We need our village to make the magic happen!
Purchase a Toy for a Child or Gift Card for a Teen
Help us get ready for this year's ASK Holiday Party by purchasing a new toy valued $25-$30 of gift card of equal value (Target, Walmart, Amazon, Michael's, Old Navy, DSW, Starbucks). No stuffed animals, please!
Ship your unwrapped gifts directly to ASK (please include a gift receipt with your name so we can send our thanks!) or drop off your gift in person. The ASK Family Center is located at 5211 W Broad Street, Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23230.
Please plan to have your item delivered to ASK by 4:30pm on November 28th. This will give our elves time to sort, wrap and label before the big event.
Check out our wish lists to see exactly what our families like:
Make a Gift to Support a Child
Cancer takes such a toll on finances and emotional energy. Families don't always have the time to shop or the luxury to spend money on festive meals, gifts or winter clothes. Making a donation online takes no time at all. A gift of $30 will provide a child with a new toy to love or a gift of $150 will adopt an ASK family member who needs extra support. Any gift size makes a difference!
Your kindness will bring our families comfort during a time when they need it most. Thank you for helping to make the holidays bright!
As ASK’s chaplain, Rich Catlett sees every day the many stresses that having a child with cancer can put on a family. But as Covid isolation and concerns continue, and opportunities for ASK families to connect with the outside world are diminished by treatments and extended hospital stays, Rich knows that new mental health challenges are developing and deep fatigue is growing.
For three years, Rich has served every family that is treated in the ASK Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Serving as the chaplain in a previous job, he was accustomed to helping children and families with chronic illnesses and end-of-life care. However, when Covid hit, Rich noticed that the isolation for ASK families became even more significant. “We no longer had a connection point for parents in Clinic or through in-person ASK events,” explains Rich, “and we began to see a new level of anxiety among patients, families and staff. These families need a lifeline in others who truly understand their struggles. This population needs connection to get through the day."
Meet ASK Kid Eshan
With Harvard in his sights and many more documentaries to produce through his non-profit film company, Eshan Vishwakarma is ready for the next chapter in his life. The fact that he is a 15-year cancer survivor of Stage 3 Neuroblastoma helped shape his future, but didn’t derail his goals and aspirations.
“I don’t remember a lot of my diagnosis,” explains Eshan, “but I know my parents and I fought hard for me to be here. We shifted our entire lives for my chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, and I’m so grateful to just be here and for all of the support I’ve received from ASK.”
10 years ago, two little girls had a dream to raise $1 million for ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation. 10 years of hard work and dedication later, they are a 1/3 of their way towards that goal!
“Mackenzie has never known life without cancer,” explains Victoria Levi, co-founder of the Fredericksburg ASK Golf Tournament. When Mackenzie was 21 months old, she was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a brain tumor at the base of her brain. She underwent 2 surgeries and 7 months of chemo down at VCU before being declared ‘cancer free’. But that didn’t stop the visits to the clinic and the follow up testing.
Every few months, she would have to have blood work and MRIs to look for tumor recurrence, so it seemed like she spent a lot of time down at the hospital. But instead of being afraid of it, Mackenzie made it a playground and everyone there was her friend. So much so that the Levi family started attending ASK social events to connect with clinic staff and other cancer families they had befriended at the hospital.
When Jon Longenecker started with ASK to create services and programs for our families in the Fredericksburg area, he saw an opportunity to create something amazing. As a retired special education teacher, he was accustomed to creating new and different approaches to learning and social challenges with adolescents and young adults, and he knew that he could help build the same type of programming and services in Fredericksburg that are offered to young pediatric oncology patients in Richmond, ASK's home base.
“The more I learn about ASK and its mission of making life better for children with cancer, the more I fall in love with this organization and what it accomplishes on a daily basis,” says Jon. “I wasn’t aware of the learning and social difficulties that children with cancer can experience until I discovered ASK and all of the ways that ASK reaches each child, sibling and parent. I’m more convinced than ever that we can help mitigate some of the challenges these children face during treatment and in survivorship.”
The moment we've been waiting for has finally arrived! Earlier today, the state budget was signed and approved by Governor Youngkin. This means that children with cancer will receive dedicated state funding for the FIRST TIME in Virginia’s history.
In a nutshell, this new funding will:
Moving Forward with Aaliyah
Aaliyah’s favorite saying is, “Never give up!” That constant positivity helps Aaliyah face life’s challenges, like being born with Down’s Syndrome, and battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
When Aaliyah was 12 years old, she received new braces on her teeth. But when her mouth continued to consistently bleed, her mom, Karen, knew something wasn’t right. Her dentist recognized the symptoms of leukemia, and immediately sent Aaliyah to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at the VCU Health System, where she spent the next three months in the hospital.
“I thought she had an infection, not cancer,” remembers Karen. “My world fell apart that day we got the blood test results.”
Erika Carson knew she had found her calling when she joined Trilogy, a company formerly dedicated to virtual tutoring of school-aged children. When that company changed its business model, Erika founded Brain Bodega, with a focus on online academic mentoring that provides concierge academic services. She also wanted to continue and strengthen the existing partnership with ASK as we work with childhood cancer patients and their siblings while they go through treatment and head into survivorship, all while trying to succeed in school. This year, we celebrate the 5th anniversary of our online tutoring program with Brain Bodega as our trusted academic partner!
“This partnership is deeply personal for me because I am a childhood cancer survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia who experienced latent effects of chemotherapy,” recounts Erika. “I had ‘chemo brain,’ and struggled in graduate school. I hatched the idea for Brain Bodega while working on my PhD and knew that I could create a program that specialized in helping kids with trauma.”
“Some of our instructors and kids have been together for years, and we’re seeing real success stories as a result of our partnership."