Local non-profit continuing to help families facing childhood cancer

COVID has made fundraising more challenging for the nonprofit.

“We still had about 325 people joining us last year and signing up for the race that had dropped from about 410 the year before, so last year it was a little dip, a little bit more of a dip this year. But I think what everyone thinks is covid is stretching there’s a fatigue it’s just harder to get people involved,” said Mary Hansen, Brighter Tomorrows board member and race president.

They’ve raised nearly $20,000 this year, but the goal is $30,000.

“Cancer takes away all your control and your ability to almost make decisions and do things, but no one can take away the hope you have for your child who is part of this journey. You know, I hope we can provide that” , said Brighter Tomorrows chairman and co-founder Liz Canan.

The nonprofit gives families the chance to connect with people who know exactly how they feel going through childhood cancer.

The family of honor for this year’s Go for the Gold race is the Stewartville Kiefer family.

“He started out with a fever, back pain, and started limping,” Stephanie Kiefer says.

Kiefer’s son Liam was hospitalized in the fall of 2020.

Doctors performed a bone marrow biopsy and found that Liam had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“It’s very isolating that you feel a little alone, especially with the pandemic, on top of finding out that your child has cancer,” Kiefer said.

After the diagnosis, Liam began treatment.

“Many heavy chemotherapy, many hospitalizations, many appointments,” said Kiefer.

And with the treatment came Brighter Tomorrows, not only to help Liam, but also to support his parents Stephanie and Jake.

“It brings people together who have many similarities in this unimaginable journey and it connects them,” Canan said.

“I can ask these people questions like what did you find the most difficult phase, or when did you feel comfortable when you started traveling, do you let your kids swim in a pool,” Kiefer said.

It also helps siblings like Liam’s sister Claire and Mallory get through this difficult time.

“It was very difficult for Claire because at that time we weren’t even allowed to take her to the hospital and I think Brighter Tomorrows is so supportive and I know she gets involved in some activities,” Kiefer said.

“We have a virtual bingo night, which is one of their favorites. We had a group of siblings take them to an adventure spot in the Twin Cities where they were doing ropes,” Hansen said.

While this non-profit supports these families, it wouldn’t be possible without donations and fundraisers like Go for the Gold.

“It’s local, we’re your neighbors, this really happens, and it touches you, of course Liam, but the whole family just gathers around the local people and feels that support is great,” Kiefer said.

Liam is now in the maintenance phase of his treatment which will last about two and a half years.

Now he gets chemo once a month and goes to see his doctor.

Thursday night, Rochester will be lit in gold.

The Plummer Building is lit up for Childhood Cancer Awareness and you can participate at home.

Brighter Tomorrows is asking everyone to leave their porch lights on to let the kids and families know you’re supporting them in the fight against childhood cancer.

You can register for the 30th annual Go for the Gold race here.

Read more about Brighter Tomorrows here.

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