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They Walk the Walk

Family Matters - Spring 2011

Families and friends of pediatric cancer patients have one goal

When Holly Meredith, mother of MD Anderson pediatric cancer survivor Warren Meredith, heard about the American Cancer Society’s Katy (Texas) Relay for Life, she knew immediately that this was a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness of childhood cancer and to fund research for this disease.

She recruited “an awesome team − so talented and creative” − that met monthly to brainstorm and discuss ideas about how to raise money and, at the same time, create an awareness of how cancer impacts children. The team became the “Moms on a Mission” and readied themselves to participate in the Relay for Life in Katy, Texas.

Inspired by their daughter Caitlyn's battle with cancer and to show support for all those still battling the disease, Dawn and Jerry Mortus formed a team called “Crushing Cancer.” For the second year, this group participated in the Katy relay and enjoyed being on the track next door to their friends, the Moms on a Mission.

Walking the track

Team members joined more than 1,000 other supporters at the relay, where everyone camped out and took turns walking or running around a track at Katy Park. Each team had a representative on the track at all times during the event, and, because cancer never sleeps, the relay was overnight, April 8-9. 

Meredith and Dawn were proud to report that each team had a member on the track from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m.

As one mom put it, “This is not a sorority anyone wants to join but I feel a kinship with these courageous and, occasionally, outrageous moms. These fine and compassionate women compose a tribe of comfort, as we understand all too well the life-changing events cancer elicits.”

Moms on a Mission members thrust gold ribbons toward everyone they saw in hopes of increasing knowledge about the need for pediatric cancer research. They found that most people were genuinely surprised that there has been only one new drug developed in the last 20 years for pediatric cancer.

More dollars mean more hope

To raise funds, Moms on a Mission sold bookmarks representing different types of cancer, cookies and even four of the flashing silver sequin cowboy hats they were wearing. In addition, they auctioned two donated rocking chairs and a basket of MD Anderson-branded merchandise. 

At last count, Moms on a Mission earned more than $6,000, third among the community fundraising teams.

The Crushing Cancer team raised money by asking for donations and selling luminarias to go around the relay track. Dawn Mortus reports that her daughter’s former school, Wood Creek Junior High in Katy, allowed them to have a pajama day to raise money for the Relay for Life. 

This pajama day tradition is in its second year and will continue for next year’s relay. The team looks forward to raising even more money for this worthwhile cause.

While The American Cancer Society is the official sponsor of more birthdays, the Crushing Cancer team plans to be there to celebrate them. This year the team purchased luminarias honoring children recognized through their non-profit program, Keep Kids Connected. 

“It made it even more special for us to be able to honor and celebrate the lives of the other children we've come to know who are battling cancer,” Dawn says.

The results of Dawn’s hard work were obvious. She placed second for the individual community participant, raising the most in donations. The team itself was among the top money raisers for the community teams with a total of $4,000 to date and donations still coming in.

Overall, the Katy Relay for Life earned more than $253,000. Those who participated left the park in hope of another tomorrow with the promise of a cancer-free world for all children.

It’s all about teamwork

Moms on a Mission:

  • Abigail Armstrong, pediatric cancer survivor
  • Rhonda Trevino-Armstrong, mother of Abigail
  • Cip and Rhonda Cardenas, parents of a pediatric cancer patient
  • Tracy Cimo, MD Anderson nurse and parent to a pediatric cancer patient
  • Ann Inabnit, grandparent of Jacob
  • Ann Kruegar, family member of Jacob
  • Audra Kruegar-Inabnit, family member of Jacob
  • Addison Marshall, pediatric cancer survivor
  • Val Marshall, mother of Addison
  • Holly Meredith, mother of Warren
  • Warren Meredith, pediatric cancer survivor
  • Shana Peterson, stepparent of a pediatric cancer patient
  • Jacob Ramirez, pediatric cancer survivor
  • Missy and Roger Ramirez, parents of Jacob
  • Jennifer Strickland, family member of Jacob

Crushing Cancer:

  • Caitlyn Mortus, pediatric cancer survivor
  • Jerry and Dawn Mortus, parents of Caitlyn
  • Jared, Ashley and Zachary, siblings of Caitlyn
  • Chris Charba, friend of Caitlyn
  • Haile Duplantier, friend of Caitlyn
  • Mallory Simoneaux, friend of Caitlyn
  • Kirsten Fishbeck, friend of Caitlyn
  • Lee Jorge, friend of Caitlyn
  • Shefali Syed, friend of Caitlyn

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center