Gavin Smith has brain and spine cancer. He just turned 9 years old.
Elizabeth is 5 years old going on 15 and battled Acute Myeloid Leukemia for two years. She won.
Last Saturday at TopGolf's Allen location, Gavin, Elizabeth and almost 50 other HopeKids and their families proved that the C-word doesn't slow them down.
As the Program Manager for the brand new Dallas/Ft. Worth chapter of HopeKids, I see families just like Elizabeth's and Gavin's struggling under the weight of doctor's visits, loss of work time and medical bills. The strain is often too much for our families who are more likely to declare bankruptcy or end in divorce. Research has shown that children respond more favorably to treatments when immersed in a vibrant support community. HopeKids provides that community.
HopeKids provides ongoing events and activities and a powerful, unique support community for families who have a child with cancer or some other life-threatening medical condition. Each month, we schedule a variety of sporting events, live entertainment, museum visits or other types of fun activities for the whole family.
According to Wade Lovorn, our Bay Host last Saturday, TopGolf's philosophy is precisely what HopeKids' events hope to achieve.
"TopGolf is for anyone who wants to have fun. Most of our players have never played golf before, but no one is judging you because everyone is the same," said Lovorn.
For Gavin's mom, Stacie Smith, this is the environment their family is looking for in family outings.
"HopeKids provides an environment that just gets it," said Smith. "It's in a fun environment where we aren't getting stared at [due to chemo hair loss]."
HopeKids strives to keep kids focused on the future, looking forward to the next fun event around the corner, rather than dwelling on what they are dealing with in the present. All of our events are focused on the whole family to prevent siblings from being unintentionally overlooked and are offered at no cost to families.
"Michael and I have such expensive hospital bills. This event is something we don't have to worry about whether we can do something fun this month with our family," said Erin Pace, Elizabeth's mom.
Our Dallas/Ft. Worth chapter started programming in May 2013 and already serves more than 190 North Texas families who are also daring to not let life-threatening medical conditions slow them down. Our goal is to schedule 15 events each month and serve 500 families by the end of 2014.
"TopGolf is a year-round sport with heaters and sheltered bays; we are here rain, snow or shine," said Lovorn. HopeKids is also here through life's toughest storms.