Today I climb for Richard Stefanacci and his family.
A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted a link about Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer, a campaign started by Go4TheGoal, in which sports teams and athletes don neon yellow shoelaces to support the fight against pediatric cancer. I fell in love with this simple-but-inspiring idea and the cause it supported. So I quickly purchased a pair with my sights set on climbing Kilimanjaro all laced up with a sunny little reminder of why I climb.
No more than 30 minutes after my purchase did Beth Stefanacci, Executive Director of Go4TheGoal, write an email to me that was filled with total happiness and excitement, as she wanted to know more about the climb. I wrote back to her with some information and my cell phone number, and I signed off as a supporter of her cause and a proud Jersey girl. Next thing I know, the phone rings and it displays my familiar home state area code: it’s Beth.
We spent the next few minutes discussing why we were both so excited for each others’ causes. I told her about my plans to wear the shoelaces with my hiking boots, my background fighting against pediatric cancer with Penn State Dance MaraTHON, and how I was climbing to support LIVESTRONG in memory and honor of the people I’ve known and loved that have fought against cancer.
And then Beth told me about Go4TheGoal, a non-profit she and her husband formed in 2006 when their oldest son Richard was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at the age of 13. While it was difficult to hear this mother’s personal journey about losing her son in 2007, I realized that this family was really thoughtful and special. They used their own experiences with pediatric cancer to help others. Namely, their non-profit works to aid children suffering from childhood cancer that do not have the emotional, financial, and logistical support that the Stefanacci’s were fortunate enough to have for Richard. Go4TheGoal was born out of love, and it continues to help families that face a cancer diagnosis.
Today, Go4TheGoal has another initiative: “B Positive,” a campaign dedicated to supporting Richard’s cousin, Blake Buffa, who is currently doing great in her battle against a rare soft tissue cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. B Positive rallies behind Blake and keeps everyone updated on how she’s doing.
Cancer has touched the Stefanacci family twice now and it’s awesome that they stay so committed to helping others. And that doesn’t stop at helping families that are affected by pediatric cancer. For example, Beth even offered to help my fundraiser out, too. She kindly mentioned the idea of sending my letter out on her listserv, and then supplying me with the shoelaces and extra Go4TheGoal gear. She also donated, too, and I was really happy for the support to help me get closer to my $10,000 fundraising minimum requirement!
Today, when I got home from work, a package greeted me at the door from New Jersey, and it was filled with amazing gear that I am so excited to wear while I train (I’m also keeping my fingers crossed I can squeeze one of the t shirts that was sent to me into my bag for the climb, along with all my other equipment!).
Needless to say, I am very thankful to have crossed paths with this organization and this family. Because I think that as terrible as cancer is, I find that I when I get involved with the cause—whether it’s through the dance marathon, a 4,500 mile bike ride, or a climb up Africa’s tallest mountain—I end up meeting people who are just so incredibly selfless, generous, kind, and positive.
I recently watched a YouTube video where Beth and her son, Christopher, are talking about how they are guided by Richard’s spirit and his crazy energy. I hope I can be brave enough to harness that same type of energy when I climb 19,341 feet to the summit on July 2, 2012. When I get there, I also hope I’ll get a few moments to look down at my bright shoelaces, smile for Richard, and then remember why I climb: for him, for the Stefanacci family, and for all the families they’ll help with their organization, too.
Thanks so much, Go4TheGoal, for helping me raise money for cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG! I’m very happy we can work together to make the lives of survivors, fighters, supporters, and families a little brighter!