At age 15, Taylor Brook Hodge would much rather spend time with friends from her Special Olympics team. Instead she fights to live, battling a rare brain cancer for the second time in her short life. One day mid-treatment, Taylor received a package from Linked with Liam, offering her a Warrior Pack or backpack filled with goodies like window markers, books and a craft set. Every time she is hospitalized, Taylor loves to decorate her room with the window markers. Although a small gesture from Linked with Liam, Taylor’s mother, Cathy Hodge, says, “It adds a little hope amid the craziness and constant worrying.”
In April 2013, Liam Webb, a happy little boy, was diagnosed with the same cancer as Taylor. After seven months of treatment and several infections, at only 4 years old, Liam passed away. Despite the difficulty of his battle, “Liam met his danger head on like a warrior,” Christian Webb, Liam’s father, says. Realizing that the war against childhood cancer continues even after the death of her son, Carli Webb wanted to pay it forward to other children and families. She says, “We hope to let families know that there is hope and that they never fight alone.” Christian adds, “I believe his bravery, his strength and his warrior spirit will bring the same empowerment he fought with to his fellow warriors.”
Creating Linked with Liam, the Webbs began to reach out to those still fighting the same war as Liam by donating Warrior Packs, dream catchers and blankets. Roger Cooper, father of Liam’s friend and fellow cancer warrior, Sam, says, “The Warrior Pack is great, the dream catcher makes Sam have good dreams and the blanket keeps him warm, but above that is the strength we gain from the Webb family and Linked with Liam that even in their tragedy, they are in there fighting for our child along with us.”
Linked with Liam not only delivers Warrior Packs and other items to children undergoing cancer treatments, the foundation also offers the families financial assistance with bills or medical care. “We spent over $5,000 in parking alone while our son was in treatment, which left little left over for bills and gas. Through the kindness of others, we were able to stay on our feet during the hardest time of our lives. We hope to be that helping hand to others now,” Carli explains. After receiving an application for financial assistance, the foundation finds the family a sponsor.
Additionally, Linked with Liam is dedicated to increasing awareness of childhood cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the United States. More importantly, Linked with Liam looks to explore and fund alternative, less toxic treatment methods to find a cure. Out of the children who do survive, two-thirds develop at least one chronic health condition, and one-fourth will face a severe or life-threatening effect from treatment, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
Carli says, “As of now, there are still very few [alternative treatment] options for kids. There are a few promising studies. … We hope to find specific trials to fund in the near future.” Exploring more treatment avenues may lead to a safer cure, ensuring that every child has a chance to survive and live a long, healthy life.
To provide for all these services, Linked with Liam will host several fundraising events throughout the country in the coming months, including:
* First Annual LiamFest BBQ on June 28 at the Waters Church in Katy, Texas * Liam’s Birthday Bash on Sept. 27 at Bridgeland in Spring, Texas * Liam’s Birthday Carnival in October in San Diego
Future fundraising plans also include a golf tournament next spring. In the past, several local restaurants in Houston and Katy, Texas, have held fundraising nights for Linked with Liam. Through these events and the continued generosity of others, Linked with Liam can continue to fund its programs.
Through their grief for Liam and the pain of seeing more children experience the hardships of cancer, the Webbs and the Linked with Liam team are motivated to increase awareness of childhood cancers, support those enduring it and pursue a cure. Carli says, “Liam was the kid who cheered everyone on, and now, we are cheering people on in his name!”
For more information on upcoming events or if you would like to donate to or volunteer with Linked with Liam, click hereor go to http://linkedwithliam.org/ and explore the options under How to Help.
To learn more about Taylor Hodge, Sam Cooper and other cancer warriors, visithttp://linkedwithliam.org/CWarriors.html and click on their personal links.
Lacey Kupfer Wulf is a freelance writer. She and her husband live in Houston. EMAIL:firstname.lastname@example.org.