Calliope Joy Carr, age 2, August 2012, on the family's Make -A-Wish vacation to The Winnetu Resort in Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Audrey Le Tesson.
With your help, doctors have the ability not simply to cure the disease, but to
ensure these children never become ill. Finding children before they lose the ability to swallow, walk, smile, breathe, and feed themselves is critical for treatment since once symptoms develop there is no way to reverse the damage to the brain.
The Calliope Joy Foundation is helping our partners at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia save children from this devastating disease and become a national leader in the care of the leukodystrophy family of pediatric, neurological diseases. In 10 years, hundreds of children will be in school and celebrating birthdays
because of what we made possible.
Help us give children their childhoods and
change the world with cupcakes.
#EatCake & #HelpKids
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Pat and I are behind in grading and letter-writing for tenure folders and evaluations because of all that had to be done in the first few months of classes. It's hard for me to concentrate on Marx and Durkheim when my mind has been so preoccupied with cupcakes for nearly a year.
But, the other thing is that extraordinary things have happened in the wake of the cupcakes. You see, CHOP has organized several meetings to build a center of excellence for the care and treatment of leukodystrophy. Spark Therapeutics and CHOP now want to be the first American team to treat leukodystrophy with amazing new gene therapies that have proven to be miraculous in terms of eliminating all the symptoms of the disease. There are children with Cal's disease, who were diagnosed when Cal was, who are walking, talking, attending school, and showing no deficits at all. The cupcakes have made CHOP shift course and become part of this cutting-edge work.
And so, Pat and I (with the help of Cal and the cupcakes) get to bring together Jim and Jill Kelly, Hunter's Hope, researchers in Italy, families who have been treated in Italy with CHOP and the neurology division, the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts behind New Jersey's Emma's Law and Pennsylvania's Hannah's Law. Our kickstarter grant has done just that, made things happen in conjunction with the newborn screening laws which will mean that children in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will be screened for one of the most common forms of leukodystrophy: Krabbe Disease.
We estimate 33 to 66 children will be diagnosed annually with Krabbe, and because of what Callie has inspired, and so many people have done, CHOP will be ready with state of the art treatment and care and research.
Then it occurred to me that that in the next few years means we could host a cupcake challenge with more than 100 children who get to have a childhood because what we are a part of through selling cupcakes.
How can I go back to normal when I can now dream of a Cupcake Challenge with all the children the doctors and all the extraordinary people and children who have suffered so much?
On July 5th, 2012, Dr. Waldman had to tell us the worst thing a parent will ever hear and the worst thing a doctor has to say. Now, just two years later, Dr. Waldman will be able to offer hope to families that would have been impossible two years ago. "The whole world has changed." And because of Callie, we will do more than cure this disease, we will prevent children from becoming sick. Imagine not simply curing cancer, but never letting it happen. That's what my Cal and the cupcakes have done.
And when Cal was diagnosed, I promised Dr. Waldman that all I wanted to do was live long enough to see the children she could save from Cal's fate. To be honest, I didn't know if I would live long enough to see them have a meaningful treatment for leukodystrophy. I never thought I would get to meet the children the doctors had saved. And here we are, just two years later, seeing that wish come true. At the cupcake challenge, I met two children the doctors have saved. I spoke to a little girl who smiles and walks and talks even though she has Cal's disease.
Our Cal will do just what those marketing campaigns for CHOP have long promised, giving hope, giving children childhoods, and making miracles happen.
How wrong I was, and how incredible it feels to have been so very, very wrong.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Saturday, September 27, 2014
would lose the ability to smile, talk, walk, and feed themselves —a chance to go to school. “This is an extraordinary time for research in leukodystrophies,” says Patrick Carr, Calliope’s father and the co-founder of The Calliope Joy Foundation. “We are so pleased to be a part of the first steps in creating a medical database, transforming research into treatment, and getting CHOP ready to save the lives of the children we will be finding through newborn screening.”
Calliope’s mother, Maria, says, “There is no doubt in my mind that CHOP has an integral role to play in the treatment and care of leukodystrophy patients, particularly with newborn screening laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We are committed to making CHOP a global leader for leukodystrophy care and treatment, and giving hope to the children and families who come after Calliope. We want to share in these families’ miracles.”
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The comfort comes from the power of bringing a community together. A sociologist friend explained that uniting people around a cause in the wake of tragedy is a gift to the community and those touched by the tragedy. The secret to getting through all this is realizing this is so much bigger than our family. The other thing, is with all these people around, they relieve the burden of our grief by drowning us in love and children and joy and cupcakes.
We made a great deal of money, $24,000 is pretty impressive for a single community event with just a handful of corporate sponsors. More importantly, a successful charity event like this might cover half its costs, an extremely successful one might have 30 percent covered. We covered all our up-front costs with sponsorships, so the $24,000 will be given away to CHOP and our partners. Some of funds must remain in our accounts, but, we will be giving a great deal of money away at our next board meeting. An excited Pat declared, "I can't wait to write those checks."
The sight of 1000 people filling the school was amazing. For me, walking into the school and seeing the volunteers, balloons, raffles, cupcake store, our new VIP area, and the 5000 cupcakes felt like a movie.
For those of you who know me, these ideas had just been scribblings in a little notepad that I carried around in what is known as mhy gigantic crazy lady purse. There were phone numbers and reminders of people to contact. There are pages devoted to choosing cupcake flavors and letters for sponsors and lists of people who will need thank you notes. There is also an accordion folder by my bed filled with receipts and letters and business cards. Pat holds his tongue if he ever wants to complain about the Cupcake Challenge clutter.
I knew the event would be wonderful, I was determined for it to be so.
A friend in fundraising warned me that the second year of events often sees a dip in turnout, I promised myself I would break the sophomore curse of community fundraising.
Three months after the first Challenge, I started to put together asks for sponsors. For nine months, and the children and Pat can attest to the fact, that every free moment away from work and home was consumed with a manic planning. To get through a bad day, I would order t-shirts or write letters to Marc Vetri and Jose Garces' publicity people.
About one month before the Challenge, I let our volunteers and Pat take over the execution. I must confess to being quite choosy about prizes and the bakeries we work with. The Challenge works with the best businesses that I know people in the Main Line will like. I picked out things I would love to win, and on a few occasions, the money I longed to spend on Cal's new shoes or a new outfit were put to the foundation since Cal doesn't outgrow her clothes and doesn't need to get things children with friends and birthday party invitations and play dates need.
By the summer, and the coup of the Duchess of Cambridge correspondence, I have gotten really good at writing letters to convince marketing/community outreach departments that this is the charity to support.
I have figured out how to explain what we do in a one minute voicemail messages and found that it was less about Cal and more about serving children. This year, I didn't tell people Cal was my daughter, they would only puzzle it out if they took the time to read the materials I sent.
This year's event brought incredible moments I had not been prepared for. I met two mothers whose children have MLD. I just realized this was the first time I had met other mothers like me in-person. There had been email posts and FB messages, but never face to face meetings.
But this last summer, I found myself seeking out women like me more and more. And so, much to my surprise, and pleasure, two women came to the event to meet Cal, me and PJ and Camille. I recognized them immediately in the crowd. We embraced and wept. My MLD sisters felt like long-last family members who knew everything about me without having to be told anything. There were no awkward moments or clumsy questions, being in their presence was a relief, since, they understood all of it like no one else. I fussed about their children and they were overwhelmed with Cal's beauty and the way the community had come together. These women praised me, too much, for putting together this event. And while I assured them that my way of dealing with MLD was not necessarily the best plan for everyone, they understand how much doing something and being surrounded by people who love and care for you could get you through the nightmare. I was flattered they believed I had shown them a way to survive this. Both women spoke of how their time at the Challenge made them want to start a foundation and help the doctors and other children in their own children's names. One of the women, who had pursued gene therapy in Milan, was particularly overcome with the sense that the chance to save her children with the miracle of the Italy treatment obligated her to ensure no other children would die. And when she saw Cal, this mother knelt down and just caressed Cal, and took in with love and pain that overwhelmed me. For moment,it was like Cal was her child too. Looking at Cal was the future she had fought so bravely against, a future she could not be certain would not come, but at least, through her pursuit of a miracle, she had bought her children time. And, as I have said to all the women who took their children to Milan, parents of the children who could not be saved don't begrude them their miracle, their miracles heal us. That's why I long to share in them.
I cried Saturday more than I had planned. My friends from college surprised me, Lynn drove 5 hours from Pittsburgh and Jill and Christine flew in from Boston just for the day. They kept my mom company and hugged me so hard that I just wanted to collapse in their arms since I knew they would never let me fall to the ground. I think it was Jill who handed me an envelope with a note and a check for $5000. The money was amazing, but the fact they had come to be with me and meet Cal, and face the horror if it all overwhelmed even more than the generosity of this gift. My mom broke down when she saw the college students of three decades ago taking time out of their lives to be with me on this day and meet Cal. Friends came from DC and drove for hours just to be there. Someone told me you could not find parking around the school for blocks.
All of Cal's doctors and nurses came. The VIP area was filled with the dozens of people who had
cared for her over the last two years. Some had not seen her in months, and they tried hard to disguise their alarm at the disease's relentless progression.
The teachers at Cynwyd worked hard to be sure that the plan from this year would be easily replicated for years to come. The Cynwyd principal, Dr. Martino, told an exhausted Pat, "We want you to do this for 20 years." And when I said to Ms. Ruzzi, the guidance counselor, how this was our last year as a parent of a Cynwyd student, she smiled and said: "You all are a part of this school forever. You are never leaving." So, here was yet another gift of solace and love. Cal might never get to be a student in Cynwyd, but, our family would never have to leave. Cal and our family will have a place in this school for as long as we want. And then I realized that the school staff had taken such a strong lead in this year's planning since they wanted to be able to carry on if something happened, and Cal was sick...or something else, made it impossible for us to do the Challenge's heavy lifting. There are contingencies put in place so that even if our sweet Cal is gone, the Challenge will go on.
The thing that overwhelmed everyone was the feel. Even people who didn't really know what the Challenge was for, there was still some confusion about the Foundation and whether we were raising money for ourselves. Even some of the student volunteers from SJU didn't realize I taught at the University, but so many people spoke of the outpouring of love. The incredible feeling of the event.
I am sure there are more and better ways to make money, but this event is something more.
The best way to sum it up is to see how exhausted, in a happy way Pat, the kids, and I are after the day. PJ gets to beam with pride, Camille comes out of her shell, and we get to be more than the sad family with a terrible tragedy, we are the family whose community has come together to be a part of something bigger than all of us. It is the beauty and love that is the only antidote to grief and loss. It is wonderful because even if we lose Cal tomorrow, she has already changed the world and accomplished so much.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Get ready for this, we think we tripled last year's Challenge fundraising with over $24,000 in a single day.
Every cent will go to fund research, serve children, and support families.
*CHOP's Pediatric Advanced Care Team provide home-based care to medically fragile children with life-threatening illness, care that is not provided by insurance. PACT has made it possible for Cal to be home and have the best quality of life possible by avoiding extended hospitalizations and managing her care with doctors and nurses who are available 24/7.
*CHOP's Division of Neurology will work to bring cutting-edge research and life-saving treatments for diseases that will claim the lives of children before age five. We are working to make CHOP a national leader for caring for children with deadly neurological diseases such as leukodystrophy.
*Cal's Wishes Fund at Abington Hospital's Kind's children's hospice unit provides special gifts like plane tickets for family members, holiday celebrations, and meals to support families caring for children at the end of life.
*Cal's Cupcake Care Packages with toys, books, notes, and special gifts get sent to children all over the nation when kids and families face extended hospitalizations.ckages with toys, books, notes, and special gifts get sent to children all over the nation when kids and families face extended hospitalizations.
We could not have done any of it without all of you. So thank you. Cupcakes will change the world.
#EatCake & #HelpKids.
I will take three months off and start planning for next year.
Cynwyd Elementary teacher Ms. Rebecca Brenner and her husband, Joel Brenner, in the VIP area.