As we get ready to welcome our new Ambassadors, we checked in one last time with our 2015 Ambassadors to reflect on the past year and how much the St. Baldrick’s community means to them.
Alex Penny is a physical therapist who recently completed a grueling Ironman triathlon. His inspiration? A former patient, Ambassador Caroline. “She gave me the courage to fight through every cramp and all the nausea and exhaustion of training this past year,” Alex writes. Read on to see how Ambassador Caroline pushed Alex to keep going — and to raise over $4,000 for childhood cancer research along the way.
Caroline was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January 2014 and spent much of that year in the hospital in Houston.
I am a physical therapist at a major cancer hospital in Texas. I specialize in the rehabilitation of pediatric bone tumor patients, most often following major orthopedic reconstructive surgeries. This is how I met Caroline Richards and her family.
Earlier this year we lost an exceptional smile and friend in Ambassador Caroline. Her uncle Dave Lugar describes her bright spirit, her “daily zest to look her best,” and how he’s committed to fight childhood cancers in her honor.On January 4, 2014, we learned that our then-11-year-old niece, Caroline Richards, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a somewhat rare form of bone cancer that typically impacts children and adolescents. We of course put on our brave faces, did our research, and encouraged Caroline and her parents with everything we had. We were in this together and we were there to help.
Ambassador Caroline would have turned 13 on April 13 — her golden birthday.
This past January, just two days after being announced as a St. Baldrick’s 2015 Ambassador, Caroline passed away from osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone.
We are honoring her the best way we can, by raising money for childhood cancer research to help kids just like her.
Caroline was 12 years old. She had a smile that lit up the room and loved spreading joy to others. She cherished time with her family, friends, dogs, and her newest pet, Herbert the hedgehog.
I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Caroline last Tuesday. She was so excited to be a St. Baldrick’s Ambassador this year and thanked us for giving her the opportunity. I assured her that we were equally as grateful that she said yes. We talked about a variety of things, including how she wanted to engage her nearly 30,000 Twitter followers in this fight.
But the bulk of our time was spent talking about Herbert. She said, “I just always wanted a hedgehog and now I have one.”
Since she was a little girl, Caroline roamed her Texas neighborhood bearing freshly baked goods and making friends with all the neighbors. Caroline’s giving spirit and contagious grin persisted through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and physical therapy.
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right arm in January 2014, Caroline spent most of that year in the hospital in Houston. Despite the treatment, Caroline’s disease continued to progress and she died on January 9, 2015, surrounded by her loving family.