Janet Keating, who is a member of The Valerie Fund's Leadership Council, poses in honor of the Green Light Initiative.
Someone asked me not long ago why I devote my time and energy to The Valerie Fund, and what has me so excited about The Green Light Initiative. The answer goes back to 1989, when my son Eric was diagnosed with cancer. Burkitt lymphoma.
My nine-year-old boy had a very aggressive cancer. He'd had some heart and respiratory problems from birth, and got the cancer diagnosis in Philadelphia, where we had a great team of pediatric specialists. We would have taken Eric anywhere in the country to be treated. But, living in Summit, we knew of The Valerie Fund, and had a friend whose daughter was being treated at TVF's Center at Overlook Medical Center. So we met with Dr. Steven Halpern, who assured us that he could do anything and everything right there in Summit that anybody else, anywhere, could do.
He was right! Eric is now 38 years old and, as you might know, Dr. Halpern was honored last November at The Valerie Fund's Annual Thanksgiving Ball Gala for his almost four decades of dedication and caring for TVF kids and families. Our story is just one of many thousands over The Valerie Fund's history. While each story is unique, the amazing support Eric and our family received is typical of how The Valerie Fund treats everyone with the very best care and compassion.
In our case, being able to stay close to home for Eric's treatment meant the world to our family. Eric's brother Brian, older by 20 months, was in school, while his younger sister, Alison, was just two years old at the time. Eric's dad was able to go to the hospital to see Eric before heading into New York for work, then come visit after work, too. My mother took time off from her job and moved into our house to take care of Brian and Alison. I also had a wonderful support system in town, with friends making meals and bringing them over every night. As for Eric, friends were able to come visit him at the hospital, and I remember them looking at baseball cards, watching Final Four basketball on TV, and just being kids. If we had not been at The Valerie Fund Center at Overlook, none of that would have been possible.
Fast forward almost 30 years from that experience, and it's remarkable how The Valerie Fund has grown. I've seen it firsthand, as a TVF mom and, since 1990, as a member of the Board of Trustees, which I chaired from 2003-2006. So I know how crucial the Green Light Initiative is. It's truly a matter of keeping up with the times to offer our services to more children and families. Adding a TVF Center at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Paterson, NJ, is very important for that part of the state. In fact, all of the expansions and enhancements in the Initiative will touch many lives in much-needed ways.
As for that question of why I've stayed so involved with The Valerie Fund for so long, it's not only what it meant to Eric and my whole family all those years ago. It's for all the children and families who've been supported and cared for thanks to what Sue and Ed Goldstein started. I'll never forget that when Eric was being treated, every time we saw the Goldstein’s they'd ask, of course, about how he was doing. But Ed would also check on my older son, asking "How is Brian?" Because of their own experience with Valerie and her sister, Stacy, they were so tuned in to siblings. That thoughtfulness always impressed me, as did their generosity, and commitment to taking a grassroots idea that started in their living room and turning it into an unparalleled organization.
I look back and say The Valerie Fund helped us as a family, and helped Eric so much, I want to remain a part of the mission. I think I'll be there to the end! For people like me who've seen the results of what The Valerie Fund can do, I want to pass on that message, and I'm hopeful more people will get involved and give generously to the Green Light Initiative--to help us do even more for the kids.
To learn more about the Green Light Initiative please click the traffic light above
ABOUT THE VALERIE FUND: After their nine-year-old daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer in 1976, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art medical care. Today, more than 6,000 children with cancer and blood disorders benefit immeasurably by receiving their medical treatment close to home in a child-centered environment. The Valerie Fund ensures they do not have to rely on insurance reimbursements to receive a range of customized therapeutic services that enhance their quality of life. For more information, please visit www.thevaleriefund.org.