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  • Meet ASK Kid Zion

    For the most part, three-year-old Zion is your typical toddler: he loves dinosaurs, superheroes and wrestling with his older brothers. “He’s a flirt and a charmer,” Zion’s dad, Andre, says with a chuckle. “And as long as he stays hydrated, we let him try new things and play hard!" Zion was just one week old when he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease (SCD): an inherited blood disorder that causes red blood cells to become crescent - or “sickle” - shaped, stick together and block blood flow to the rest of the body. Both of Zion’s parents carry the genetic trait for SCD, as does his twin, Nuri, so the diagnosis wasn’t a huge surprise; Rather, it marked the first of many challenges ahead in managing his lifelong illness. Within days of his diagnosis, Zion and his family were introduced to ASK. “ASK is phenomenal,” remarks Taniqua, Zion’s mom. “Everyone is so helpful and kind, and the financial help that ASK has given us has been incredible. The kids appreciate the gifts and toys and the people at ASK are always on hand to lift our spirits.” Zion’s family was able to participate in ASK’s 2021 holiday Tacky Light Tour, a trip to the Richmond Zoo, the ASK 2022 holiday party and several more ASK events. Being diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic meant extra isolation from the outside world, so these opportunities for connection were that much more impactful for Zion and his family as they navigated his illness. “The older kids were very upset because they understood what Zion may go through, but we have rallied as a family and they are very protective of their little brother,” Taniqua continues. “Now, we’re hoping that Zion will be able to have a bone marrow or haploid transplant to improve his situation, with the new marrow coming from either me or his dad if not an unrelated donor.” Sickle cell disease patients can experience episodes of intense pain. Zion experienced his first pain crisis when he was eight months old, causing a terrifying stroke. While monthly blood transfusions and iron chelation therapy currently keep Zion’s pain crises at bay, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant is vital to helping him live a long and full life. Even so, Zion doesn’t let sickle cell disease stop him from being his awesome self! “Treatments have improved, technology has improved, and Zion can be an example that children can live a normal life with sickle cell,” shares Andre. Taniqua and Andre want people to know that children living with SCD in Virginia need blood transfusions, and encourage everyone who is able to step up and give what they can to save kids like their son. “It was heartbreaking to know that during the blood shortage, some kids couldn’t get the blood transfusions they needed. Please give blood if you are able. You never know whose life you may save. We are so grateful that Zion could receive the blood he needed... Someone out there helped save our baby."

  • Meet ASK Kid Tallulah

    On Mother’s Day of 2022, Melissa and her then two-year-old daughter, Tallulah, tested positive for Covid-19. Nothing was the same after that diagnosis. Unfortunately, Tallulah never fully recovered and her mom continued to question why, weeks later, she wasn’t feeling better. Once a simple blood test revealed critically low platelet, red and white blood cell counts, Tallulah was rushed to the pediatric emergency room, where she and Melissa were dealt an unexpected blow: a diagnosis of B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “We live in Powhatan, so by the time we arrived at VCU, Tallulah was unresponsive. I thought she died in her car seat, and I would never see my baby alive again,” Melissa remembers. “ I just wanted to rewind the clock and go back to the day before Mother’s Day, the day before our whole world changed.” An ER doctor confirmed that Tallulah was “nearly incompatible with life.” The hospitalization that followed marked the start of their difficult journey ahead. "Immediately, we were greeted warmly by Katie Barber, ASK’s Child Life Specialist. Within minutes we felt like we were home, where people were going to love us, nurture us and help us through the most difficult situation we’d ever encountered.” - ASK mom Melissa “I didn’t want to be in the ASK Childhood Cancer Clinic,” Melissa continues. “I didn’t want to be near the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, and, most of all, I didn’t want my baby to have cancer. But there we were, confused and terrified. Immediately, we were greeted warmly by Katie Barber, ASK’s Child Life Specialist. Within minutes we felt like we were home, where people were going to love us, nurture us and help us through the most difficult situation we’d ever encountered.” A two-and-a-half-year regimen of treatments, chemotherapy, steroids, transfusions, infusions, and surgeries lay ahead. Tallulah has endured multiple hospital stays and surgeries – but through it all, she stayed resilient. A true fighter. Thankfully, she is now entering her last year of chemo treatments and is celebrating by counting down the days on a chalkboard. Each day is represented with a one-of-a-kind drawing that Tallulah’s mom plans to turn into a book for family and friends. “God is so good,” Melissa says with appreciation. “We have gratitude not for cancer, but for this experience that has taught us to treasure every single day and love deeper.” Alongside their faith, Melissa, Tallulah and family continue to find hope through ASK’s emotional and educational support services, as well as a community that fully embraces and understands them. This care goes beyond the clinical and the medical – it’s personal. “We are so grateful to ASK for being our constant cheerleaders and advocates, and for providing so many opportunities for us to interact with other families. We learn and grow from one another, and those connections with people who truly understand what we’re experiencing have been vital to bringing a sense of normalcy to an abnormal situation. The sense of community that ASK fosters is unique,” Melissa explains. “Jon Longenecker, ASK Education Support Coordinator, helped us find a new preschool that was more accepting of Tallulah’s situation, and someone is always on hand to give us gift cards for gas and food, or just a much-needed hug. They are personally committed to all of the ASK families.” “Tallulah is not only the happiest child that I know, but the most joyful person that I know,” Melissa exclaims, radiating with pride and love. A four-year-old dynamo, Tallulah infuses life with music, dance, and Sesame Street-inspired cakes. “Her cup runneth over,” she continues. “I think, on some level, she knows she’s living through a special time in her life and she’s determined to make the best of it. We’re going to celebrate every day of this journey.”

  • Meet ASK Kid Monica

    When Monica was told she had leukemia, she considered ending her own life. A single mom of two young children who speaks limited English, she knew her life during treatment would be hard and she would be alone. It was too much to bear, but then she remembered her babies. “I was so tired, and so sick during chemotherapy. My life was hard and some people that I thought loved me, left me. But I had to stay strong for my children,” recounts Monica. Monica, now 19, was 5 months pregnant with her second child when she noticed that she was so tired, could barely walk and couldn’t sleep. She went to a few hospital emergency rooms before a doctor did a simple blood test, which showed that her hemoglobin and platelet counts were too low, indicating leukemia. To save her life, her son was immediately induced and she began chemotherapy treatments shortly after. Now in remission, Monica looks forward to returning to all the things she enjoyed doing before her diagnosis, like being outside, playing basketball and being a mom to her children. She credits the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation with supporting her through diagnosis and treatment, and now getting back on her feet. “ASK has helped me so much,” exclaims Monica. “Gift cards to help with food and diapers and clothes for my kids, as well as helping me with all the health insurance stuff. I couldn’t have gotten through this terrible experience without them!” “ASK is like my family now... I experienced so much joy with my children at the Bingo Night and the picnic for Latino families. I learned I can feel happy in the middle of cancer.” - ASK Kid Monica “ASK is like my family now,” continues Monica. “They helped us financially and emotionally and have provided enjoyment and words of encouragement during this difficult time, just like a real family. I experienced so much joy with my children at the Bingo Night and the picnic for Latino families. I learned I can feel happy in the middle of cancer.” ​Monica is quick to add that because of financial donors, ASK now provides bilingual support for Spanish-speaking families. “For many Hispanic patients, there is a serious language barrier when trying to understand medical guidance. I want financial donors to know that because they are providing resources for people like me, God will bless them. I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough!” Like many pediatric cancer patients, Monica has a positive spirit. “I know now that everything is going to be well and if I stay positive, things will turn around. Every day, I’m so grateful for my life and for the support that ASK has given me to help me get here!”

  • Meet ASK Kid Caroline

    “I want people to know that everything that happens to you in your life will make you a better person, even cancer,” says Caroline Dunn. “The longer you mope, the longer you’ll be stuck in the mope. Having a positive mindset is huge to not only recovering but actually thriving.” Sage words from a young cancer survivor. In December 2021, at age 14, Caroline was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Now, one year into a potentially three-year chemotherapy regimen, Caroline is looking forward to doing all the things that a typical 15-year-old is ready to do, like picking a college and driving a car by herself. “I just want to get through this and have a future,” continues Caroline, “I’m enjoying the time to sit back and think about what I want to do, and then I’m going to do it!” Caroline knew something was wrong before she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Random bruising and feeling “gross” left her with an uneasy feeling that her health was declining. One day, she called her mom from school and asked for a blood test. When her mom took her to the pediatrician, Caroline was told she was depressed and should talk with someone or start depression medication. Luckily, the doctor did a finger prick blood test which confirmed Caroline’s suspicions: something was terribly wrong. “My initial cancer diagnosis was a relief. Finally, I knew what was wrong with me. But I immediately wondered how the chemotherapy would affect me short term, and what my life would look like long term. I was a competitive gymnast, and I knew that I would need to quit so that I could heal." Luckily, ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation was there to guide Caroline and her family through her diagnosis, treatment, and remission. “I’m so grateful for donors to ASK. Sometimes I feel like people assume that someone else will help or donate. I want everyone to know that we all need to actively do something to help!” And Caroline is willing to pitch in herself. She and her mom produced a video to encourage people to donate blood. Caroline was denied blood twice when VCU Health System was critically low on blood. "I don’t know what we would have done without the gift cards for food and gas, presents at Christmas, emotional support through counseling for me and my siblings, and all the programs and services that ASK provides to every family. I will be forever thankful for everything they’ve done for us." - ASK Kid Caroline “Katie, the Child Life Specialist in the ASK Clinic, is one of my favorite people in the world,” gushes Caroline. “All of the people associated with ASK have been so kind and supportive of not only me, but my whole family. I don’t know what we would have done without the gift cards for food and gas, presents at Christmas, emotional support through counseling for me and my siblings, and all the programs and services that ASK provides to every family. I will be forever thankful for everything they’ve done for us." “Nothing that happens to you defines who you are as a person or how you will be identified for the rest of your life," Caroline continues. "You can make a difference in this world, and that will determine how people know you and remember you.”

  • Meet ASK Kid Owen

    Originally from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, ASK dad Andrew Frantz worked in as a seasonal ranger, and Rebecca as a pastor. Together, they enjoyed life raising their adorable 2-year-old son, Owen: a brave and talkative tot who befriends everyone he meets, with boundless energy and a love for life that fills every room he goes into. In 2021, life started to change when Owen developed an on-and-off fever over the course of several months. It wasn't until his teacher noticed Owen's discomfort at daycare that Andrew and Rebecca started to realized something was seriously wrong. On March 3, 2022, Owen was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), turning the entire family’s world upside down. Owen started treatment in Pennsylvania immediately, but in the midst of the family’s move to Richmond, had to continue his next phase at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. That's where Katie Barber, our Child Life Specialist, welcomed them with open arms. “From our first appointment, she was there telling us about ASK letting us know that she was there for whatever we might need,” says Rebecca. The Frantz’s didn’t waste any time finding their Richmond community, and just two days after meeting Katie, the family found themselves at their very first ASK event: the Night at the Diamond! ​ “We hadn’t even been here a week, and we were already getting the benefits of ASK. When they got all the kids and families together to go out on the field they had some music playing, he just started dancing and playing around with some kids,” Andrew remembers. “When the stadium speakers started blasting Don’t Stop Believing as all these kids and their ASK shirts were coming out on the field… it was hard not to get choked up." ​"The transitions and challenges we faced would have been unimaginable without ASK,” Andrew shares. “Their support is nothing short of remarkable… It really is almost kind of a full-scale support network." This special experience was the first of many times they’d grow their bond with ASK. Since their move, they’ve gotten to meet and connect with other kids and families through ASK events and programs like the Day at the Zoo, First STEP Preschool, our annual Family Holiday Party and Self Care Day specifically for parents with a child in active treatment. Not to mention, Owen was a 2022 Kourageous Kid and the Frantz' were our very special featured family at this year’s ASK Gala. It was a busy year! ASK has also been there for them behind the scenes, supporting them through gift cards and financial support, and emotionally through the free psychology services we provide our families as they endure the isolation and stressful emotions that come with having a child in treatment for cancer. "The transitions and challenges we faced would have been unimaginable without ASK,” Andrew shares. “Their support is nothing short of remarkable… It really is almost kind of a full-scale support network." Through ASK, Owen and his family have found a new community and network of support – people who care for them, giving them the strength to fight on, one day at a time. “I think we are just really grateful that ASK has the support that it has so that it’s been able to be such a great support for us,” adds Rebecca. “Even once Owen’s done with active treatment, he’ll still be part of a community that will actively engage him through when he graduates and beyond,” Andrew continues. Owen still has a ways to go until his end of treatment date in May 2024, but we’ll be there on his journey every step of the way, and forever after. Once an ASK kid, always an ASK kid!

  • 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.” Meya’s mom, Juliet, is quick to add that a kid dealing with cancer is still a kid. “Although they’re going through cancer treatment, they still want to be with their friends and do teenage things. I chose to look for the positives in our situation and find the good that could come from childhood cancer.” Meya’s family was familiar with ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation because their neighborhood had participated in several fundraisers for ASK; but didn’t understand the magnitude of what ASK can do for a family faced with a childhood cancer diagnosis. ​“I spent last Christmas in the hospital, but when I woke up on Christmas morning, there were presents in my room. ASK was so thoughtful in purchasing presents specifically for me, and I was overwhelmed,” remembers Meya. “I have really benefited from the music therapy, as well, which is completely funded by ASK. Often, Brooke Cable, the ASK Clinic’s music therapist, and I performed together in the Clinic and it’s given me a way to continue preforming while I couldn’t be in school. It helped make the Clinic less of a clinic,” Meya laughs. ASK also assisted in getting Meya her first wig, which was important for her as she prepared to go back to school. ​ "We’re so happy to be on the other side of cancer now, and so grateful to ASK for their enormous support.” An aspiring film maker, Meya has her sights set on college. “I want to take what I’ve learned from this experience and use it to my advantage,” says Meya. “I would say to others going through a cancer diagnosis to stay positive, be nosey and ask questions, and know that you can find the good in every situation.” “There have been many beautiful moments in this journey,” shares Juliet. “We’ve been blessed to find humor, the beauty in humanity, and we’ve learned that childhood cancer families are not fragile. We are stronger than we thought we could be. We’re so happy to be on the other side of cancer now, and so grateful to ASK for their enormous support.”

  • 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." "Rich Catlett, the ASK chaplain, was waiting for us when we sent Levi into surgery. We didn’t expect him, but he was there to pray with us. We didn’t know what the surgeons would find or if they could remove the tumor, but Rich was there to comfort us," remembers Jessica. "Everyone is so present and caring." "He has continued to follow us through treatments and in Clinic. He even feeds Levi’s new desire to tell jokes by bringing him new material to entertain us. Rich is just one example of how ASK is in this with us, walking with us on the good days and the bad. Everyone is so present and caring.” ​ After delicate brain surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy treatments and a stem cell transplant, Levi’s life is starting to return to "normal." Jessica says he’s even growing hair and eyelashes and eyebrows, a big deal for anyone finishing chemo! Levi is one of ASK’s 2022 Kourageous Kids, but he couldn’t go to the kick-off party because he is still confined to his home and wears a mask. He can’t play in dirt or mulch because he can’t be exposed to germs or bacteria. However, there are bright moments as Levi recovers. The day that Rock Solid installed a play set was the first day that Levi was able to venture into the outside world since his stem cell transplant. "I don’t know what we would have done without this incredible organization!" “Pediatric cancer is not just something you see on TV, it’s real and it’s right here in Richmond,” continues Jessica. “You hear of it, but you never think that it could be your child. Unfortunately, it can happen to any family, and it affects every member of the family. ASK supports our other child and my husband and me, not just Levi, and that support has been invaluable to all of us. I don’t know what we would have done without this incredible organization!”

  • Self-Care is Important for ASK Parents, Too

    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." Rich knew that these connections needed to be more deliberate and began coordinating “happy hours” for Clinic staff where they could get coffee and a treat, and just talk at a distance. He began encouraging parents to take time for themselves and do something as simple as taking the long way home to help clear their heads. “Self-care is so important if we truly want to be helpful to others,” says Rich. “It’s hard for these parents to care for themselves when their child is so sick.” To promote his own self-care, Rich started getting therapeutic massages with an oncology certified massage therapist. He found himself wishing that ASK parents could have the same opportunity to unwind, but knew that time, money, and scheduling would make this impossible for some. So he thought: “What if we just make it happen? What if this could be one more service that ASK can offer?” The response from families was overwhelming. Rich converted the Children's Corner in the ASK office into a peaceful atmosphere where parents were able to feel compassion and care for themselves. “There’s something so therapeutic about human touch that allows us to clear our minds and be reminded of our humanity. We want to constantly provide better care for our patients and our families, and it’s my hope that a monthly massage day will become one more regular service that ASK provides,” says Rich. While mental health issues continue to evolve in this ever-changing environment, Rich credits his faith and his colleagues with the ability to meet the needs of patients and families. His typical day is anything but typical, and he purposely doesn’t schedule his day so he can adapt to whatever situation may present itself. “Some days, I care for all staff and some days, my care is directed to only patients and parents. This is doable because my faith sustains me, and because we work as a team in the ASK Clinic. We all work on spiritual, medical and emotional care. We all support one another and that helps us deal and cope with our environment.”​

  • 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.” ​Eshan says his most challenging moments came after survivorship when he had two major surgeries for hip dysplasia in 2020. “I missed a great deal of school before the pandemic and virtual learning became a thing,” says Eshan. “I experienced ASK’s online tutoring program and the power of Alma Morgan, ASK’s educational coordinator. She was a constant advocate for me within my school system, and continued her support even after I recovered.” And Eshan is paying it forward. “It was a very sweet moment for me when I could shift from student to tutor, helping other cancer kids with their homework at ASK’s after school program,” Eshan shares. His ASK 5K team, Outspoken Narrative, named for his non-profit, raised more than $1,000 this year, and Eshan was named the 2022 Tad DuPriest Volunteer of the Year. ​Eshan’s future plans include volunteering in Clinic and ASK’s after school program when he’s home on college breaks. “I love going back to Clinic because I know and love everyone so much. It’s like going home.” "I almost lost everything and, with the support of my family and my ASK family, came back stronger." “I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my cancer diagnosis and how it has shaped me," says Eshan. "I almost lost everything and, with the support of my family and my ASK family, came back stronger. My cancer survivorship made me want to tell the incredible stories of others who have overcome obstacles, and it led me to form Outspoken Narrative.” In collaboration with other high school and college film makers across the world, the company produced 12 documentaries in its first season and attracted the attention of Adobe. “The new partnership is just surreal,” laughs Eshan. “We have been awarded a grant from Adobe to test some new film making software they are creating. I’m completely astonished.” Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, Eshan. You continue to astonish all of us!

  • The Levi Family Legacy

    Celebrating 10 Years of the Fredericksburg Classic 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. “ASK is the invisible, behind-the-scenes force of nature that families don’t know they need at the time of treatment,” says Victoria. “We mistakenly believed that all of the toys and games and gas and meal cards, and even staff like Katie Barber, were provided by the hospital, but all of that support was provided by ASK. They were a Godsend to us, and we knew we needed to do what we could to give back.” The Levi started by attending the ASK Walk and set up a team and a webpage to raise money for ASK. As the years passed, Mackenzie began to understand what was going on and wanted to do her part to raise money for the “boys and girls at the big hospital.” In first grade, Mackenzie and her best friend Megan decided to sell painted rocks and lemonade to earn ‘1 million dollars’ for ASK and her parents knew they needed to do something else to support them in their effort. With Megan’s dad, Ralph Rapillo, and his friend Mac Church, Jon and Victoria organized the 1st Golf Tournament to raise funds that would stay in the community. ​Ten years later, it’s become a full family affair with Mackenzie’s little sister Grace joining in and volunteering at the tournament along with Victoria and Jon’s friends. “It definitely takes a village to pull this off year after year”, Victoria said. “We have great friends that volunteer every year to run the registration and the logistics of the day and put together goodie bags. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them." Victoria credits the success and growth of the tournament to those community partnerships. “Mac Church knows everyone in Fredericksburg, and they all come out to help and support the tournament by playing, sponsoring or donating. Without their support we wouldn’t be able continue to meet and even exceed our goals. Every year, our players and sponsors return and the tournament gets bigger and better. And here we are on year 10! We never dreamed it would be this successful or go on this long." “We were helped so much by the community and our friends and by ASK during and after Mackenzie’s treatment," reflects Victoria. Covid threatened to cancel the 2020 tournament, but faithful followers remained loyal and were open to any changes that needed to happen to make it a safe event. “Things like the dinner and raffles didn’t matter to them”, Victoria says. “They just wanted to play and raise money for the kids, so we adapted to the situation, and made some changes that allowed us to social distance”. Instead of raffle gift baskets, the tournament gave out gift cards, and provided pre-packaged snacks instead of dinner. “Everyone embraced the changes because we knew we were continuing the tradition of raising money for children with cancer in our community.” Mackenzie Levi is a senior this year, and continues to motivate and inspire participants in the tournament. Victoria says it’s a full-circle moment. “We were helped so much by the community and our friends and by ASK during and after Mackenzie’s treatment. Watching your child undergo cancer treatment is heartbreaking and it changes you. ​So every time Mackenzie’s story can inspire someone to take action, to get involved, or to give to ASK, well then that means that maybe her hard days have helped someone else have a better day.”

  • Having Fun and Making Friends (& Pizza!) in Fredericksburg

    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.” Perhaps one of Jon’s most important initiatives is the after-school tutoring program. Here, kids are helped not just with their schoolwork, but something else just as important: socialization and building long-term friendships. “These kids experience so much isolation because of treatments,” continues Jon, “and their mental health needs are as important as their physical needs. We’re able to build lasting relationships by meeting once a week and helping each other with homework, but also through games, field trips and just having the opportunity to be teenagers. This is vital to their continued development, in spite of a thing called cancer.” “I go to the kids’ school functions and sports games, and they have built such strong friendships as a result of our programs." Jon hit the ground running by hosting a make-your-own-pizza party, a tour of the local airport and museum, a movie night, a fishing derby and so much more! Plans are in the works for a Fredericksburg Nationals night and a week of summer camp. “I go to the kids’ school functions and sports games, and they have built such strong friendships as a result of our programs. They are starting to attend one another’s high school plays and camps outside of ASK events. It's really incredible to see their support of one another develop and grow organically as a result of their time spent with each other here at ASK." “I am a man of faith and I know I’m where I’m needed most. I’m so excited to be part of such an impressive team of incredible people. I know we are making a difference in the lives of those affected by childhood cancer and I want to see our programming and participation grow exponentially. Thanks to generous donors, we’re on our way!”

  • Kids with Cancer Included in VA Budget for the First Time!

    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: Provide a Pediatric Cancer Support Navigator for each of the five pediatric cancer treatment centers across Virginia. Create a bridge between a patient's medical team and their school to ensure they don't fall behind. Help EVERY young cancer patient transition back to school during and after treatment.​ This amazing win wasn't achieved by ourselves or overnight. We've worked closely with the Virginia Childhood Cancer Network members as well as our advocates throughout the state over the past four years to make this a reality. This also would not have been possible without the incredible pro bono guidance and support of Robb Bohannon and Hunton Andrews Kurth. While Central VA is our home base, we believe every family in Virginia deserves this support. #MakingLifeBetter for kids with cancer is the very heart of our mission, and this is the next step in fulfilling it. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand to make this possible!

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