Every year, the Foundation selects five Ambassadors to represent the thousands of kids touched by childhood cancer from many different geographic areas, age groups, disease types and more. These brave kids serve as a reminder that childhood cancer doesn't discriminate and that one in five kids diagnosed in the U.S. will not survive.
The Ambassadors and their families allow the St. Baldrick’s community the opportunity to follow their stories for a year, sharing a glimpse into the lives of families taking on the realities of childhood cancer. Their stories inspire thousands of St. Baldrick’s participants, volunteers, and donors to take action and make a difference for children with cancer.
San Antonio, TX
They called him Mr. Cheeks for the frequent, easy smiles that stretched across his face. Alan was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma in his hip at 17 months old, but for the five short years he graced this earth, Alan was pure joy.
He was such an active, engaged child that it was hard to keep him occupied during long hospital stays. “Alan was unstoppable,” his mom says. He learned to walk three times in his short life: as a toddler, as his hip recovered from the tumor damage, and again after having his hip removed.
Alan loved monochromatic animals – penguins, zebras and pandas. He loved reading, learning, and exploring. But most of all, Alan loved numbers – counting them, adding them, punching them into his calculator, pressing them on the elevator.
Alan couldn’t wait to go to school like his big brother and biggest hero, Kevin. When his first day of preschool finally arrived, he cried when it was time to go home.
Alan passed away on January 17, 2013, after battling cancer for most of his life. Alan’s parents vowed to continue the fight through the Hero Fund they established at St. Baldrick’s in his name.
Alan’s life was far too short, but his bright light shines on through the countless lives he touched, in the research for a cure that is funded in his memory, and in the hope that the research gives to the children and families who follow in his footsteps.
Hayden F. Age 6
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
In the summer of 2012, Hayden was a happy, carefree 3-year-old who loved swimming and fishing in rivers. His whole world changed when, just five days shy of his fourth birthday, Hayden was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Hayden’s cancer diagnosis forced him to grow up fast. Just three months into treatment, Hayden proudly learned to swallow pills so he no longer had to taste the yucky cancer medicine. “He has a take-control approach towards his care,” his mom says, and he never fails to question the purpose of every medication, procedure, or change to his treatment plan. He likes to take part in flushing his own port and he especially delights in showing his nurses how to use their stethoscopes.
He suffers from neuropathy and chemotherapy related joint pain, making it hard for him to walk for long periods of time. But that doesn’t stop Hayden from running after, or away from, his younger twin brothers, Colten and Corbin. And Hayden is always quick to jump at the chance to help out on the family farm, especially if it involves riding on the tractor next to his dad.
When Hayden isn’t at the hospital or outside playing baseball, he enjoys building forts with his grandmother, or “Mam-Maw.” Hayden’s whole family looks forward to February 2016, when he will be done with his cancer treatment. Then, Hayden wants to focus all of his energy not on fighting cancer but on his next greatest feat: becoming Batman.
Lauren B. Age 17
Coral Springs, FL
No evidence of disease (NED)
Lauren is a 16-year-old honor student who loves to shop, dance, and play the viola. She has always had a passion for travel and for giving back to her community, and she spent the summer before her freshman year of high school touring Europe and volunteering at a local church summer camp.
The following summer was quite different. Lauren was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma in June 2012 when she was 14 years old.
While most girls her age were concerned with boys, hair, and the latest fashion, Lauren’s cancer diagnosis made her realize what really matters. “Life has become more precious,” Lauren says. “I appreciate my family more and value our time together.”
Lauren spent more than half of the last year in the hospital, but she was determined to stay on track with her studies, taking online classes and completing the coursework from her hospital bed.
Now a junior in high school, Lauren has finished treatment and is looking ahead to a bright future. She plans to study biology in college and go on to medical school to become a pediatric oncologist, where she will devote her career both to the treatment of kids with cancer and to the research to find cures.
Harlem C. Age 8
No evidence of disease (NED)
At 8 years old, Harlem has already proven himself to be a powerhouse on the track and on the soccer field. Looking at him now, you never would guess that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 5.
In fact, you might not have known it while he was in treatment, either. Harlem’s parents always knew he was tough, but even they were shocked by his undaunted strength during round after round of chemotherapy. The doctors had warned them that he would lose his hair, weight and energy as side effects of the drugs he was taking, but throughout those six months, Harlem remained just as strong and lively as he ever was.
Harlem’s cancer diagnosis didn’t slow him down in school, either. Today, he is in second grade at a bilingual school, where the majority of his lessons are in French.
Despite a four-year age difference, Harlem and his older brother, Malcolm, are inseparable. When Harlem was in treatment, Malcolm cooked for his brother and carried him on his back wherever they went. Harlem looks up to his brother and says he wants to be a firefighter just like his dad.
Like many kids his age, Harlem’s favorite time of the year is Christmas. But Harlem and his family are now celebrating a new holiday: December 27, the day Harlem’s doctors told him he was cancer free.
Grace C. Age 12
Brain or spinal cord tumor
Grace’s parents knew she was a miracle right from birth. Grace came into this world 14 weeks early and weighing only 2 pounds. After months of special medical care, her parents had hoped their hospitals days were over.
Then, when she was 5, Grace began to complain of intense headaches that were often followed by spells of vomiting. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma just a few weeks into kindergarten.
Grace underwent surgery to remove the brain tumor, followed by high-intensity proton beam radiation and 9 months of chemotherapy. When Grace’s mom explained that she was going to lose the fiery red hair that had always gotten so much attention, Grace treated it as a new adventure. Her mom puts it simply: “Grace is Grace.”
Grace is now 12 years old and cancer free. Her iconic hair has grown back, but she still deals with the long-term effects of her cancer treatment, including hearing loss, cataracts, and growth issues.
Cancer didn’t damage Grace’s spirit. She carries the strength and determination that she fought cancer with wherever she goes. Her teachers say she’s a bright, creative student who has overcome many obstacles on her way to a promising future. Grace loves animals and she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up – as well as a firefighter, a hairstylist, and a mom.
Last summer, Grace enrolled in babysitting classes to prepare for the arrival of her baby sister. She is relishing the role of big sister to her newest sibling, Esmae, and continues to look up to her own big sister, Fiona, for advice. But Grace has already proven she’s a natural. She handles this newest task like she does everything else: with grace.