Isabella has been a part of the Valerie Fund family for many years now. She was treated at The Valerie Fund Center at Morristown Medical Center's Goryeb Children's Hospital, gone to Camp Happy Times, volunteered at events and in the office, and, closest to her heart, been team captain of Bella's Bunch at The Valerie Fund Walk & JAG-ONE Physical Therapy 5K. Let's learn a little bit more about her story and why the Walk is so important to her.
by Isabella Rocco
Every June since I was around 8 years old, I rallied my friends and family to support the annual Valerie Fund Walk & JAG-ONE Physical Therapy 5K. When I was younger, the onus was on my mom to send out our emails, drop off t-shirts, and all of the other logistics that made my team, Bella’s Bunch, possible and successful. I was always in charge of banner decorating, but as the years went by, my mom passed more and more of our operations onto me. I accepted them with pride as it was the very least I could do.
My relationship with The Valerie Fund is one of my most special. A quick Google search will confirm that The Valerie Fund’s mission is to support pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients and their families, but I think The Valerie Fund’s impact is actually much more profound than that.
When I was diagnosed with Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), The Valerie Fund did not merely support me—it became a part of my family. Even years after recovery, The Valerie Fund continued welcoming me back to Camp Happy Times with open arms. When I was a rising college freshman, The Valerie Fund awarded me one of its named scholarships that completely transformed my academic possibilities and experiences. When I can, I try to volunteer at events, work on projects, and help out at the office, but ultimately, whatever I do for The Valerie Fund will never amount to what they have done for me. Nevertheless, I do my best and bring my large enthusiastic team to Verona Park every year.
By “every year,” I mean absolutely every year. During my freshman year of high school, an MRI scan found I had GIST on my digestive tract again. The symptoms were beginning to affect my everyday life, so we scheduled a surgery as soon as possible. This happened to be the beginning of June. I had many goals in mind for my recovery and my summer, but one of the first on my list was to make it to The Valerie Fund Walk. We weren’t sure how I would feel so soon after a major abdominal operation, but I was set on going if I could. While my friends had to take turns wheeling me around for the better part of the day, I made it there. My family made it, my friends made it, and we raised a lot of money. There were certainly other serious concerns on our minds during that June, but I knew The Valerie Fund cause I cared so much about had not gone away in the meantime.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic. When I heard the Walk was postponed to October 3, I couldn’t believe the walk would not be a part of my June for the first time in over 10 years. The tragic effects of widespread joblessness, cancellations, and fatalities cannot be understated, but as I very clearly remembered from my freshman year, the cause and kids The Valerie Fund serves had not gone away. In fact, the pandemic has made some of the services they offer patients and their families more important than ever.
There are still ways to help The Valerie Fund during these uncertain times: we all just have to get creative! On the weekend of June 13th, the original date of the Walk/5K, there will be a virtual walk and run in support of The Valerie Fund children. You can sign up by clicking here and we encourage you to use our hashtag #BecauseofValerie the weekend of the virtual walk and run on social media to spread awareness. I'll be walking around my neighborhood with my family in one of the many Valerie Fund shirts I've accumulated over the years. I hope you join me in doing so. Donating and inviting your friends and family to contribute are still great ways to support TVF’s cause as well and you can do so by clicking here.
For college students like me, finals end in May and classes restart in August. I’m sure the June date was much more accessible for many of you who like to attend, but there are other ways to get involved if you can’t make it to Verona Park on October 3rd. In addition to online fundraising, organizing mini walks at your university with your friends and peers is a great way to unite behind our mission and raise money.
Although this year has brought us new challenges, responsibilities, and doubts, the kids with cancer and blood disorders in our communities are still depending on The Valerie Fund. When I was diagnosed, The Valerie Fund became a part of my family and offered me a supportive relationship that endures today. It is my hope that we can join together, get creative, and continue contributing so The Valerie Fund can make that kind of meaningful change in other kids’ lives too.
- Isabella Rocco
You can check out or donate to Bella's Walk team by clicking here.
Register today for the 2020 Valerie Fund Walk & JAG-ONE Physical Therapy 5K
being held on October 3rd in Verona Park.
During this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Valerie Fund remains dedicated to the children battling cancer and blood disorders. We are in this together and continue to treat every child who needs our help.
We are in this together. #BecauseofValerie