Bob Helland, of Arlington, became determined to raise money for pediatric colon cancer when his daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed with the disease in 2011. Initially, Helland reached for the stars, contacting celebrities to garner awareness for the cause. When the response was nil, Helland refused to let closed doors stand in his way.
“I wrote on Taylor’s CaringBridge page (a personalized website for people facing serious medical conditions) that we were determined to take care of it ourselves,” says Helland. “Then I got a letter from the video department at her school saying they were going to make a video, sell pledges based on views and donate the money to MD Anderson.”
After months of preparation, all 3,321 students and 285 staff and faculty members at Martin High School donned costumes and lined up around campus to prepare for the filming of a “lip dub,” a one-take music video.
“I felt so honored that my classmates teamed up to fight cancer on my behalf,” Taylor says. “I have no words to describe how happy I am that maybe someone like me won't have to go through what I've been through.”
The video went viral on YouTube, reaching more than 155,000 views, and raised $15,000 toward the first ever pediatric colon cancer clinical trial at MD Anderson. Taylor’s cherished doctor, Andrea Hayes-Jordan, M.D., will carry out the research.
“I’ve told Dr. Hayes-Jordan how much we love and appreciate her, but I just don’t have the vocabulary to tell her how we really feel,” Helland says. “She wouldn’t have done anything differently if it had been her own daughter. There’s just no way to voice our appreciation of something like that.”
After Martin High School’s $15,000 donation, Hayes-Jordan was still $20,542 away from being able to start the trial, so Helland continued to search for donors. Out of nowhere, a stranger emailed Taylor’s mom, Julia, suggesting they contact The B+ Foundation.
Joe McDonough started The B+ Foundation, named after his son’s blood type, after his son died of cancer in 2007. Helland quickly summed him up as a man of few words. McDonough’s first response to Helland’s inquiry was “How much?”; his third, “Done. Where do I send the check?”
In June, Taylor completed her junior year of high school and her 27th round of chemotherapy. Her role in helping Hayes-Jordan start a pediatric colon cancer trial brings her great joy.
“Maybe this trial will lead to a cure someday,” Taylor says. “Maybe not now or soon, but if it benefits someone, I’ll be happy. I’ll be so proud to say that with my school’s full support, I contributed to finding a cure for this horrible disease.”