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."
Meet ASK kid Rowan
At two years old, Rowan was a super happy baby, and her family was living near Dallas, Texas. When she became lethargic and started having trouble breathing, her parents took her to an urgent care facility thinking she had a bad cold. However, she was quickly taken to the PICU and she was starting chemotherapy treatments the next night for Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Rowan spent six weeks as an inpatient at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and needed to be intubated for more than two weeks to help her breathing. She started the induction phase of her chemotherapies and steroids, and in the midst of treatment, her dad’s employment transferred the family to Virginia. “Of course, we were nervous about the continuum of treatment and how to navigate a new hospital system, but the ASK staff greeted us and made us feel welcome as we entered the new doors,” says Rowan’s mom, Devon. “We didn’t know anyone in our new town, and were new to Children’s Hospital of Richmond, but ASK made us feel like family immediately.”
Meet ASK Kid Sydney
“Life came to a screeching halt,” says Vivian, when talking about the day her then 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. “Sydney went from riding horses every day and activities with her Boy Scout troop to being out of breath on very short walks. We were so involved in our children’s activities, with busy school and work schedules, and then this overwhelming thing called pediatric cancer came into our lives.”
Sydney became very sick, very quickly. Within a few days, she was diagnosed, had surgery to insert tubes to drain fluid from around her heart and lungs, and started her more than two-year regimen of chemotherapies. Although her regular chemo treatments make her extremely nauseous, Sydney finds comfort in her animals and the crafts and games that Ms. Katie, the ASK Child Life Specialist, brings for her when she’s in the ASK Clinic.
Meet ASK kid Kennedy
Seven-year-old Kennedy loves gymnastics and practices it at least an hour a day, so when she suddenly stopped wanting to go, her mom knew something was wrong. Athena, Kennedy's mom, thought maybe she was being bullied. However, it wasn't long after Kennedy had a series of fevers that they drove to their pediatrician's office and found the answer.
Once Kennedy's pediatrician ran her blood work, they saw the low blood counts and broke the news "likely leukemia.” Athena immediately rushed home, packed a bag and headed to VCU Health. Doctors confirmed the diagnosis later that night, and Kennedy was in surgery the following morning. On May 12, 2021, she had her port placed and began chemotherapy as part of her treatment plan that will span nearly two and a half years.
We could (and did!) put an album together of Tim Cosgrove grilling at ASK summer camp, but there's more to Tim than being a grillmaster. Tim is now President of the ASK Board of Directors and helping to lead the charge in raising the level of care for children with cancer. And, to think, it all started with one simple invitation.
In 2015, Tim was asked by a co-worker (who happens to be married to Miss Katie) if he would sponsor the ASK 5K & Fun Walk. Tim, then general manager with CMA's Colonial Honda, immediately agreed. “We have a very active volunteer committee at work, and once we started working with ASK, we were hooked,” explains Tim.
Tim went on to join the ASK development committee in 2017 and he has served on the ASK Board of Directors since 2018. In between the years, Tim has given back in numerous ways. From rolling up his sleeves for event set-up to wrapping a car for his ASK walk team to closing the dealership so employees could participate in ASK events.
Ways to Help This Holiday Season
It's that time of the year again, and we're gearing up to make the holiday season a special one for our ASK kids and families! With shipping delays and shortages expected this holiday season, we could really use your helping hands to fill Santa's sleigh. Will you join us in helping to make the holiday season a joyous one for our ASK kids and siblings?
We're hosting our annual holiday party as a Tacky Lights Drive-Thru event on December 5th to keep our kids and families safe. We need our village to make the magic happen!
Meet ASK kid Javi
"I can remember the exact moment we learned of Javi's diagnosis. It was certainly a rough day. But no time was wasted and we immediately started receiving phone calls to schedule further tests, which started our journey at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Within days, Javi had a port inserted and started chemotherapy. It was a whirlwind, but we had no idea of the tornado that was about to hit us," shares his mom, Amy.
ASK Kourageous Kid Javi is a typical five-year-old who loves to play baseball and soccer and runs around in his firefighter and police uniform. He loves books and is now learning to read in kindergarten.
Today Javi is healthy, but less than two years ago, in early May 2019, he began having large clusters of swollen lymph nodes in his neck. His pediatrician knew something was wrong and conducted a series of blood tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, PET scans, and a biopsy of the most prominent cervical lymph node, Javi was diagnosed with Stage 3S, Epstein-Barr Virus Positive (EBV+) Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
When Kevin Williamson attended the ASK Above & Beyond Gala in March 2018, he had no idea how inspired he would be by the children he met that night. He had first learned of ASK when participating in M4K Richmond but the night of the gala is when his heart changed forever.
Kevin was so moved that he agreed to serve on the ASK Development Committee and be part of the charge helping to raise the level of care for children with cancer and their families.
Michael Pittman has a big heart for children so when a friend invited him and his wife, Luci, to the ASK Above & Beyond Gala in 2018, Michael was happy to attend and make a contribution. Michael and Luci's support didn't stop that night though. They later attended the ASK Fall Bash and then stepped as a gala sponsor through their company, Connected Solutions Group (CSG) and have brought CSG employees to the event to learn more about ASK's mission.
All of this has led to the CSG team making the new ASK Family Center a priority. "This new facility will impact kids with cancer right here in our community. I'm a native Richmonder and I love that I can help my neighbors and friends," shares Michael.
Meet ASK kid Campbell
ASK is an organization that truly makes life better for kids with cancer. Just spend five minutes with ASK kid Campbell who is one of ASK's biggest fans and an ASK kid now in her teens. Campbell was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with the positive Philadelphia chromosome, a rare leukemia for children, when she was six years old.