Learning to Give Back
Caitlyn Mortus has the spring back in her step this year. Diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma in March of 2009, Caitlyn was treated in the Children’s Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a patient of Anna Franklin, M.D. Now cancer free, she is celebrating her survivorship by learning about philanthropy and giving thanks for her recovery.
In August of 2009, Caitlyn and her family began the first steps of giving back to MD Anderson by having a spaghetti dinner. This dinner was a celebration of Caitlyn being cancer free and also a fundraiser with all monies returning to the Children’s Cancer Hospital to be used towards research. It was such a success that the Mortus family plans to make this an annual event.
An 8th grader at Wood Creek Junior High School in Katy, Texas, Caitlyn also represented the Children’s Cancer Hospital at the Advance Team-sponsored Santa’s Elves holiday party last December. In addition to saying a few words to the party crowd, Caitlyn actively participated in the fundraising efforts by making requests to the guests for donations to the “giving tree,” which was set up for individual gifts on the Children’s Cancer Hospital wish list. There were opportunities to donate school supplies, to send a child to the hospital summer camp, to purchase sunscreen for the active young campers and more.
In March, Caitlyn and her family again represented the Children’s Cancer Hospital at The Kinkaid School’s “Beating Cancer With a Stick” lacrosse tournament. Caitlyn and another young patient were named honorary captains of the lacrosse teams and even participated in the traditional coin toss to begin the game. She was also present on the field when Dennis Hughes, M.D., sang the national anthem before the game’s start. In addition, Caitlyn helped man the Children’s Cancer Hospital table, passing out literature to all interested attendees.
Along with her family, Caitlyn has a wish that every child battling cancer - or any life-threatening disease - might be able to keep connected to family and friends while undergoing treatment. During her own chemotherapy treatments, Caitlyn was given a computer by a family friend to help her keep in contact with her friends and to help keep her spirits high. She knows first-hand the power of this social healing and that it provides a special boost that medicine and doctors cannot provide.
To help other children experience social healing, or to at least make treatment more bearable, the Mortus family has created the Keep Kids Connected program. Their goal is to provide children battling cancer or other diseases with a computer to help them stay in touch with their friends and family during their illnesses. The foundation sponsors events and activities for this purpose as well as to raise money for cancer research.